India-Pakistan: Answering To A Higher Authority


December 23, 2009: In Pakistan, the army and police are concentrating on the Taliban terrorist network. Meanwhile, in South Waziristan, and adjacent areas, the army is also searching for Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud, who has gone into hiding. Hakimullah Mehsud has a lot of enemies in the tribal areas, so he is not having an easy time finding some tribal chief willing to provide sanctuary.  In South Waziristan, there are still plenty of Taliban gunmen, but nearly all are pretending to be innocent civilians. The few months of army operations in South Waziristan left 635 Taliban and 79 soldier dead. Press reports spoke of 10,000 armed Taliban in South Waziristan, although the real number was probably closer to a few thousand. The Taliban quickly discovered that fighting the soldiers, who were backed up by air power and artillery, was a losing proposition. Getting a guerilla war going against the army supply lines has not been successful, but the terrorist bombings, after a fashion, have. The politicians and generals have tightened their security (at the expense of everyone else, by using thousands of policemen), forcing the Taliban to go after unguarded targets. This has meant attacks on market places and other crowded areas. The victims are mostly civilians, and that makes the population more willing to watch out for, and turn in, Taliban operatives and sympathizers. This has led to the discovery of many Taliban bomb workshops and safe houses. Turns out that most of these are scattered throughout the tribal territories, often in religious schools or mosques. These places are being raided, in an attempt to reduce, and eventually halt, the bombings. At the moment, the Taliban are hitting Peshawar, the largest city in the tribal territories, a lot. The bombers can get into the city because there is always a lot of traffic from the hinterlands. Since the bomber bases are not concentrated in one area, it's difficult to concentrate the police screening. While more bombers are getting caught, some are still getting through. When the bombers can't get into the city, they often go after a mosque (led by an anti-Taliban cleric).

Hundreds of Pakistani politicians, generals and businessmen have more to worry about than terrorists. The national anti-corruption agency has banned them from leaving the country. Thus  247 prominent people, who had previously believed they were in the clear because of an amnesty deal, are unhappy. The amnesty was recently nullified when the anti-corruption agency asserted that it could reinstate the charges, and the courts have agreed and are now prosecuting. Corruption among senior members of the government has been a big problem for decades. Public anger with this has grown, and the courts have stepped forward as champions of clean government. Government officials have tried to use their official power (to dismiss judges) to fight back. But after years of head butting, the courts are still at it. The next level of escalation is assassination and terror against the judiciary, but it seems unlikely that the politicians would go there. However, it might be their only alternative to prosecution and prison (unless they can bribe their way out of this, or flee and live in exile.)

While the U.S. and Pakistan are allies in the fight against Islamic terror, you would not know that by the way the Pakistani foreign ministry is treating Americans. Police have been increasingly harassing American officials, and hundreds of visas for American government workers and contractors, being sent to Pakistan, have been delayed for no given reason. Many Pakistanis, including senior government officials, believe India, and its American ally, are bigger threats than the Taliban.

India is moving the last 17,000 troops, of the force of 75,000 that it plans to soon unleash on Maoist bases in rural eastern India. The big offensive is believed due to happen within three months. New attempts to  negotiate with the Maoists have failed. This might turn out to be a death match. While the Maoists have many supporters in the areas where they operate, they have many local enemies as well.

December 22, 2009: In Peshawar, Pakistan, terrorists detonated a bomb at the entrance to the Peshawar Press Club, killing three and wounding 24. The teenage suicide bomber was stopped by a policeman at the gate, and detonated his explosives when it became clear he was not getting inside. Journalists in the city declared three days of mourning. The Taliban has generally tried to handle the media via intimidation. This sometimes works, but not lately.

December 21, 2009: Over the past week, there have been three instances of Pakistani troops firing across the border into Indian Kashmir. In the last month, there have been 28 such attacks. The Pakistani military is very anti-Indian, as the threat of an Indian invasion is the prime reason for the large Pakistani defense budget. As this attitude percolates down the ranks, it expresses itself in junior commanders ordering their troops to fire across the border, at Indian border guards. Diplomatic efforts to halt this sort of thing have had mixed success, as the Pakistani military tends to see itself answering to a higher authority, not the Pakistani government.

December 17, 2009: Five American UAVs launched twelve Hellfire missiles at two al Qaeda based in North Waziristan, killing at least 16 people. Seven of the dead were Arabs.

India has withdrawn another infantry division from Kashmir. That makes two divisions withdrawn in the last year, amounting to 30,000 troops. There are still over 400,000 soldiers and police in Kashmir. Islamic terrorism in Kashmir remains down, and the terrorists are mostly on the run. But they still keep sneaking across from Pakistan. The numbers of those making it into Kashmir are small, a few hundred a year, but most of them fight to death when cornered. This keeps the Indian security forces on their toes.  




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