India-Pakistan: The ISI Versus The World

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December 13, 2010: Al Qaeda has let it be known that it is fed up with the increasingly numerous and effective American UAV missile attacks in the tribal territories. The terrorists have told the government that either support is withdrawn for these CIA run operations (which fly from Pakistani air bases), or terror attacks against senior government officials will be made. Threats, and attacks, like this have been made before, but without much success, at least against the targeted officials. There have been lots of dead civilians, police and soldiers. The media seizes on these threats to generate even more popular hostility towards al Qaeda. It appears that the Islamic terrorists are getting desperate, as their leadership has been under constant attack from the air for two years.

The Wikileaks documents revealed that Arab governments don't trust the ISI (the Pakistani CIA) either. The Saudis, in particular, are wary. This despite how generous Saudi Arabia was with Pakistan in the 1980s when billions of dollars of Saudi aid was poured into Pakistan to support the Afghan tribesmen based there. This aid allowed the Afghans to rest and rearm between trips into Afghanistan to fight the Russians. Since then, the Saudis have become much more hostile towards Islamic radicalism, but believe that the ISI is still full of men who support Islamic terrorism. The Saudis don't trust the ISI, and are wary of Pakistan in general.

Many Pakistani generals and intelligence officials are not so much supporters of Islamic radicalism as they are obsessed with fears that India will turn Afghanistan into a client state, thus surrounding Pakistan. The fear of Indian conquest has persisted for over half a century, despite the growing mountain of evidence that India has no interest in annexing Pakistan, and its growing list of problems. One of these is the corruption in the flood relief effort. With millions of Pakistanis in need of help because of the floods earlier this year, billions of dollars of foreign aid came in for the victims. As expected, politicians and bureaucrats are stealing much of it, and mishandling the remainder. This creates more desperate Pakistanis willing to support anyone, even Islamic radicals, who promise a more just government.

The states of eastern India that are increasing their operations against Maoist rebels, are also increasing the size of the police forces. Not so much because more cops are required to go after the rebels, but because the region is notorious for how few police they have in the first place (often about half the national average or 145 police per 100,000 people). The additional police are particularly needed to battle the Maoist death squads, which are increasingly active in murdering actual or suspected informers. So far this year, the war with the Maoists has killed over 1,100 people. The Maoists are more a terrorist organization than a military one. They can muster several hundred armed men when needed, but this takes a lot of time. Groups this large cannot remain together for long lest they be found and attacked by faster and more numerous government forces.

As embarrassing as the Wikileaks revelations were, demonstrating how Pakistani intelligence and military commanders supported al Qaeda and the Taliban, there was also some opportunity. Pakistani intel apparently was able to plant some fabricated Wikileaks documents with Pakistani and Arab media, falsely indicating that India was financing the Taliban. These phony Wikileaks documents were easily exposed, but the incident also made it clear how important it is to many Pakistanis that India be seen as the cause of so many Pakistani problems. The other lesson from this incident is the ferocious competition among Pakistani media outlets, leading to the publication of really outrageous (at least to foreigners) accusations. Even many Pakistanis are taken aback at the inventive fabrications that often passes for news. While this sort of thing occurs worldwide, the Pakistani version often soars into the realm of pure fantasy. Some Pakistanis can't tell the difference, and people get killed because of these lies. No matter, it's just another lucrative headline.

Pakistani support of Islamic terrorism is very real. Indian intelligence constantly reports to Western intel agencies the location and activity of some 43 terrorist camps in Pakistan. The Westerners use their photo satellites and agents in Pakistan to confirm the presence of these camps (half of them in Pakistani administered Kashmir). From time to time, when under great international pressure, Pakistan will go through the motions of shutting down these camps, but the terrorists will simply move their operations, or hide for a while, and then reoccupy their camps. This routine, and continued Pakistani denials, has been so obvious for so long that Western nations are becoming less diplomatic in their criticism and demands for some real action against Islamic terror groups in Pakistan.

December 10, 2010: In Pakistan's tribal territories, a Sunni extremist group used a suicide truck bomb to attack a Shia hospital construction site. The attack killed 17 and wounded many more. This Sunni-Shia violence is ancient, but has become more common in the last two decades because of Pakistani support for Sunni terror groups like al Qaeda. This makes it easier for the many Pakistani Sunni radical groups to increase their violence against the Shia minority. This strains relations with Shia Iran, but not to the point where the ISI and military will make a major effort to go after all the Islamic terror groups. This is becoming a growing problem for the United States, which is tearing apart the Afghan Taliban, only to see the survivors flee to sanctuary in Pakistan. There, the Pakistani Army ignores the Afghan Taliban who are just resting up (although those who misbehave are often dealt with harshly.) NATO is particularly angry with Pakistan for continuing to allow the Taliban to freely operate in Baluchistan (southwest Pakistan) and North Waziristan.

December 7, 2010: In Baluchistan, a suicide bomber attacked a senior provincial official, but failed to hurt his intended target. The attacker was believed to be from one of the tribal groups fighting for more autonomy and a larger share of the profits from natural gas operations in the area.

 

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