India-Pakistan: Dark Days For The Generals

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June 15, 2013: In Pakistan's tribal territories (Kurram and Khyber) the army believes its three month campaign against Taliban forces there is nearly at an end, as there is only one area left to sweep (and clear of Taliban camps and storage areas). Then, next year, the Taliban and Haqqani Network believe the army will finally come after North Waziristan, which has been a terrorist sanctuary for over a decade.

Newly installed prime minister Nawaz Sharif blames the military for allowing the U.S. to continue patrolling the tribal territories with UAVs and attacking terrorists with missiles. Sharif made a big deal of ending American UAV operations, and in theory the military does not oppose this. There have been two such attacks (May 30 and June 7) since Sharif won power. The military values the damage the UAVs do to the Pakistani Taliban, which is the major terrorist threat to Pakistanis (and especially senior military officers). Moreover, turning the air force loose on the UAVs would risk seeing the United States wipe out Pakistani air power, and possibly its nuclear weapons as well. The generals see Sharif threatening UAVs because that helped get him elected and blaming the military for collaborating with the Americans is always popular with politicians. For the military, the big problem here is not Islamic terrorists but the growing efforts by the politicians to curb the political power of the armed forces and intelligence agencies (ISI). It has gotten to the point where the generals feel they can’t get away with another coup without risking massive public anger and mutiny in its own ranks. Dark days indeed for military leaders who have had their way in Pakistan for over half a century.

The U.S. is having a hard time persuading Pakistan to pay attention to the successful anti-terrorism measures implemented in Bangladesh. Pakistan does not like to be reminded of anything to do with Bangladesh, which used to be East Pakistan and part of a much larger Pakistan. But the Bangladeshis rebelled in the early 1970s and West Pakistan (all that is now left of the original Pakistan) was unable to put down the uprising. After that defeat Pakistan adopted Islamic radicalism as a new policy and Islamic terrorism as a weapon. Bangladesh made peace with India (which supported the rebels) and discouraged Islamic radicalism. Despite the growing popularity (among Moslems) of Islamic radicalism in the last three decades, Bangladesh has been largely free of it.

A Pakistani court has charged former general and dictator Pervez Musharraf with murder (of a Baluchi tribal leader in 2006). This is in addition to two other recent indictments. The arrest of Musharraf on April 19th, after he returned from exile to run for president (“to save the country”) is causing unrest within the military. Musharraf misjudged the degree of popular hatred for his years of military rule and for the military in general. This is the first time such a senior military officer has been arrested. While the current leadership of the military has an idea of why this is so, many retired generals and admirals are clueless and threatening some kind of retaliation. The generals currently in charge know better and understand the officers and troops are increasingly split over what to do. Since the 1950s, the military has seized control of the government four times and run the country for 5-10 years before allowing elections again. This no longer works for the generals and the treatment of Musharraf (who took over in 1999 and was eased out by popular disgust with military rule in 2008) is the evidence none of the generals want to see. While the military insists that civilian courts cannot go after active duty personnel (under a 1952 law), those who have left or retired are another matter and the government can force officers to retire.

India has offered to negotiate with China over their border disputes. China has not responded to this offer yet. Most of those disputes are about China taking control over thinly populated areas that India has controlled for centuries.

India’s war with leftist (Maoist) rebels is heating up again. Maoist related deaths fell to a record low 367 last year, but so far this year the violence is up a third. The Maoists have taken heavy losses in the last five years (over a thousand dead and many more who surrendered or deserted). The Maoists have become more violent this year in an attempt to reverse that trend.

June 12, 2013: Pakistan has increased the defense budget 15 percent (to $6.4 billion) for the next 12 months (beginning July 1st). The increase is largely on account of continuing operations against the Taliban in the tribal territories.

In Pakistan's tribal territories (Khyber) a soldier was killed by a roadside bomb.

In eastern India (Bihar) several dozen Maoists fired on a passenger train, killing a security guard and two civilians.

June 11, 2013: Pakistan claimed that several Indian jet fighters briefly violated Pakistani air space. Pakistan is particularly alert to what the Indian military is doing because the Indians are not accepting Pakistani claims that Pakistani military commanders had nothing to do with three recent incidents where someone fired across the border at Indian troops.

June 10, 2013: In India Kashmir police killed an Islamic terrorist during a gun battle. The police have been increasingly aggressive at patrolling remote areas where the few remaining Islamic terrorists maintain hideouts.

In Pakistan's tribal territories (Khyber) the Taliban took credit for a recent incident where someone fired on a supply convoy headed for Afghanistan. Four trucks were destroyed and four drivers and assistants were killed. The Taliban promised more such attacks and demanded that the route to Afghanistan be closed.

June 9, 2013: In Pakistan's tribal territories (Khyber) troops captured a ridge line that dominated two key valleys. The Taliban lost 35 men and the army one in the two days of fighting to take the ridge. Elsewhere in the tribal territories (North Waziristan) three soldiers protecting a supply convoy were killed by a roadside bomb.

June 8, 2013: The Afghan Taliban has apparently agreed to join with the Pakistani Army in an attack on the Pakistani Taliban. There has long been bad blood between the Afghan and Pakistani branches of the Taliban. The basic problem is that each branch wants to take control of the country they are from and that means Pakistani Taliban are welcome (unofficially) in Afghanistan and the Afghan Taliban (officially) in Pakistan. The Afghan Taliban depends on a sanctuary it has in and around Quetta, the largest city in Baluchistan (southwest Pakistan). Quetta is safe because Pakistan will not let American UAVs operate there. Quetta is where the Afghan Taliban leadership has been sheltered since 2002, and it is right across the Afghan border from the Taliban heartland in Kandahar and Helmand provinces. Since the Afghan Taliban has not made (or sponsored) terrorist attacks in Pakistan, there has been an unofficial truce with the Pakistani government. For over a year now the Pakistani military has been trying to persuade the Afghan Taliban to help deal with anti-Pakistan Islamic terrorists in Pakistan. Most of these attacks are carried out by the Pakistani Taliban, whose main base area is in North Waziristan, where the pro-Pakistan Haqqani Network also takes shelter. Haqqani is mostly Afghans and only attacks inside Afghanistan. For years the U.S. has been pressuring Pakistan to shut down the North Waziristan sanctuary. Now it appears that Pakistan will sort-of do that but will probably leave Haqqani alone. The Afghan Taliban will help by going after the growing number of Pakistani Taliban camps just across the border in Afghanistan. The Afghan Taliban refuse to admit to this plan and only say that they will only carry out attacks outside Pakistan, which is mainly inside Afghanistan. Pakistan still sees terrorists who attack India, Afghanistan, and the West as allies and wants to remain on good terms with these guys.

Pakistan has also been going through the motions of persuading the Afghan Taliban to make peace with the Afghan government. To that end Pakistan released over two dozen Afghan Taliban leaders held in Pakistani jails. These fellows were locked up in the first place to placate the Americans. For Pakistan, that is no longer as important as it used to be. Pakistan feels it needs the Afghan Taliban as an ally to keep the Afghan government in line. The Afghan Taliban need their sanctuary in Pakistan, as well as their lucrative relationship with the drug gangs in Kandahar and Helmand. The Afghans are not happy with all this.

In eastern India (Chhattisgarh) a senior Maoist leader was killed in a clash with police. Several other Maoists got away but four firearms were recovered.

June 7, 2013: For the third time in two weeks Pakistani troops fired across the border at Indian troops in Kashmir. One of the rockets killed an Indian soldier. Pakistan denied its troops had fired, but there was plenty of evidence that someone was firing and it seemed to come from Pakistani Army positions. The two earlier attacks were on May 24th and 27th. Sometimes the Pakistani military hires Islamic terrorists to make these attacks but that makes no difference to the Indians.

In the tribal territories (North Waziristan) an American UAV fired two missiles and killed seven Islamic terrorists.

June 6, 2013: In Baluchistan (southwest Pakistan) a suicide bomber killed three civilians.

In eastern India (Odisha) a senior (and very much wanted by police) Maoist leader surrendered. The man had deserted the Maoists and wanted to go straight. This is possible if he provides enough useful information about Maoists organization and operations.

June 5, 2013: In Pakistan Nawaz Sharif (whose party won recent national elections) became prime minister for a record third time.

June 4, 2013: In Indian Kashmir an Islamic terrorist threw a grenade at an army truck. The grenade missed and went off among a nearby crowd, leaving six civilians and two policemen wounded. 

 

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