India-Pakistan: The Teflon Terrorists

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February 10, 2015: Another new enemy for the Pakistani Taliban are members who have defected to ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) and gone to war with a Taliban they see as sell-outs and reactionary Islamic radical pretenders. There have already been some fatal clashes between ISIL and Taliban in northwest Pakistan. ISIL has also attracted recruits from the Afghan Taliban and released a video showing a former leaders of a Pakistan Islamic terrorist faction now becoming a leader of the Pakistani branch of ISIL.

Pakistan and Afghanistan are trying to get a better idea of how many Islamic terrorists and their families have fled from Pakistan to Afghanistan since June 2014. What has been discovered so far is that not all of these Islamic terrorists fled to eastern Afghanistan. Some are showing up in Taliban controlled areas in the south (Helmand). Most of these recent Islamic terrorist refugees from Pakistan are al Qaeda or groups from Central Asia (especially Uzbekistan). In December American, Afghan and Pakistani military leaders met in Pakistan and agreed to coordinate operations against Taliban operating on both sides of the Afghan border in northwest Pakistan. Many Islamic terrorists, including leaders have fled the Pakistani offensive in North Waziristan and headed for neighboring Afghanistan. These terrorists believed they would be safer but that proved to be untrue. Another problem these displaced Pakistani Islamic terrorists have had is growing armed resistance by local Afghan tribesmen. The Pakistani Taliban have always tried to get along with their fellow Pushtun tribesmen just across the border but over the years the constant violence (including the American bomb and missile attacks and thousands of rockets and mortar shells fired from Pakistan by the army and police there into these border areas) turned the tribes against the Pakistani Islamic terrorists and that is reflected in increased sniping, ambushes and armed confrontations on roads. The tribes are also supplying the Americans and Afghan security forces with more information, which often leads to precise UAV missile attacks or helicopter raids by commandos on Pakistani Taliban hideouts. This is causing heavy losses among key people in the Pakistani Taliban and other Islamic terrorists in the area. This has led to discussions about moving to a safer area. The options are not good. Going back to Pakistan is dangerous and given the feuding between the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, moving to other parts of Afghanistan (except the south) is not a good idea.  Meanwhile the Islamic terrorists in eastern Afghanistan are getting hammered as the Pakistani offensive against North Waziristan that began in June grinds on.

Meanwhile the fighting in Pakistani North Waziristan continues as it has since June 2014. So far over 2,200 Islamic terrorists and at least 200 security personnel have been killed. Many of the Islamic terrorists who long had sanctuary in North Waziristan have fled to adjacent areas and especially across the border in Afghanistan. The Pakistani military has pursued those who fled to other parts of the country and is cooperating with Afghanistan to deal with those who are trying to hide out in eastern Afghanistan. Unfortunately most of the 210,000 Pakistanis who fled to Afghanistan from North Waziristan are civilians, While many are families of Islamic terrorists most are not but all are vulnerable to injury from the increasing counter-terrorist activity in eastern Afghanistan. For once the Pakistanis are really cooperating with the Afghans on this issue, although the December terror attack on a school that led to the deaths of 132 children (many of them from military families) has a lot of do with this new attitude. The Afghans do note that the Pakistanis are still not enthusiastic about attacking Haqqani Network members. This is a group that dates back to the 1980s and has never carried out attacks in Pakistan but only in Afghanistan and has often carried out specific missions for ISI in Afghanistan. Haqqani is much hated in Afghanistan but apparently still has some support in Pakistan.

Although Afghanistan and Pakistan have agreed to cooperate on going after Islamic terrorists there are limits to that cooperation that are causing growing anger in Afghanistan. The problem here is continued Pakistani insistence that Indian aid projects to Afghanistan are actually just a cover to Indian terror attacks inside Pakistan. For a long time Pakistan insisted that all terrorist attacks inside Pakistan were actually the work of the Indians. That fantasy eventually became unsustainable because the Pakistani Islamic terrorists refused to play along and were very convincing in taking credit for all the Islamic terrorist mayhem. Yet senior Pakistani officials still claim that India is using Afghanistan as a base for operations against Pakistan. There has never been any proof, just decades of accusations. The Afghans are well aware of this and find the continued Pakistani accusations annoying. Meanwhile Afghanistan hosts nearly 400 Indian aid projects. Most of them are quite small but over thirty of them quite large. The Afghans appreciate the help and especially Indian efforts to work with Iran to create a truck route via the Iran border to a new port being built on the Iranian coast. All this is to serve traffic to and from land-locked Central Asia. The Pakistanis don’t like this project at all as it denies them some major leverage over Afghanistan (the truck route to the Pakistani port of Karachi).

In 2013 the Afghans angered the Pakistanis even more by asking for Indian troops to work in Afghanistan (as trainers and to provide security for Indian aid projects) and for direct military aid (Afghanistan wants artillery, transport aircraft, military engineering equipment and trucks). India has been providing aid and Indian personnel (including civilian security personnel) since 2002. India was receptive to increasing this aid, despite being primarily Hindu, a religion particularly reviled by many Moslems. The Afghans are not as upset at this as the Pakistanis are but the new president of Afghanistan rescinded the request, for now, to placate Pakistan. India and Afghanistan actually have a long history. Afghanistan may appear to be at the corner of no and where, but it is actually astride the primary invasion route from Central Asia to India (including Pakistan which is still, historically and culturally, part of India). The Afghan tribes have long since learned to step aside as the foreign invaders moved through. Actually, many Afghans would join the invaders, so much so that these invasions, and the loot and stories the survivors brought back, have become a major part of the Afghan collective memory. Some local names recall all that. For example the Hindu Kush Mountains in Afghanistan mean, literally, “slaughter Hindus.” Most Westerners have not got a clue about this cultural tradition, and how much it influences the behavior of most Afghans and those in the northwest Pakistan tribal territories. While Pakistani Islamic conservatives still yearn to conquer and convert Hindu India, the Afghans are rather more pragmatic and realistic. Since Pakistan has been a growing threat to Afghanistan since India was partitioned over the last 60 years (into India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka) the Afghans have sought local allies. The Afghans see this as one of those “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” situations and the Indians seem to agree so far. So for the moment the Afghans will not accept military aid from India, but will cooperate to assure the security of the many Indian aid projects in Afghanistan, which the Afghans know Pakistan is trying to attack via Islamic terrorists Pakistan controls inside Afghanistan. This sort of violence is very unpopular inside Afghanistan, where Pakistan is considered an implacable enemy who cannot be trusted. Meanwhile the official Afghan line is that the Indian military aid deal was cancelled because the Indians were taking too long to actually deliver anything. In truth the Afghans became aware of the shoddy performance of Indian made weapons and that had something to do with cancelling the military aid. Indian trainers and security personnel are still welcome because the Afghans have noted that in the several wars India and Pakistan have fought since the 1940s, the Indians always win.

Meanwhile India is winning its four decade war with leftist rebels. But like everything else the government does the “crush the Maoists” project is behind schedule, over budget and not nearly as efficient as politicians said it would be. Nevertheless, eliminating the Maoists is the most important defense related problem India has that most people outside India have never heard of. While these “Maoist” rebels get a lot of headlines inside India, the communist rebels have not gotten much attention outside the country. Even for a country as big (over a billion people) as India, the Maoists are a noticeable source of violence and other criminal behavior. Since its peak in 2010 leftist (Mostly Maoist) terrorism related deaths have gone from 1,180 down to 314 in 2014. The decline was most precipitous (49 percent) in 2011, but continued over the next three years. That meant a 39 percent decline in deaths in 2012, an unexpected 15 percent increase in 2013 followed by a 25 percent decline in 2014. The decline is expected to continue and more Maoists are deserting, surrendering or, if they are leaders, warming to the calls for peace talks.

As if Pakistan did not have enough to worry about with the Islamic terrorism it created in the 1970s and supported for decades, the current prime minister Modi of India appears to be under growing political pressure to finally do something about the continued Pakistani support of Islamic terrorist violence against India. That means going to war. The last time that happened was in 1999 and that led to both nations to openly build large numbers of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles to deliver them. But since then the Pakistani sponsored Islamic terrorism has continued and gotten worse. Many Pakistani leaders believe that because of Pakistani nukes the Indians would never retaliate militarily. But in India It is feared that if there were another incident like the 2008 attack in Mumbai Modi would go to war with Pakistan, despite the risk of nuclear weapons being used. Too many Pakistani leaders dismiss this as impossible, but a growing number of Indian, and Pakistani politicians think otherwise and this puts the Pakistani military, which has always been the main supporter of using Islamic terror groups based in Pakistan to “weaken” India, under more pressure to keep their current promises to crack down on all Islamic terror groups in Pakistan. So far it is obvious that the generals are lying as anyone can see the Islamic terror camps used by groups that only attack India are still operating. India knows this too and that is what adds to the political pressure on Modi to act.

The U.S. is offering Pakistan more cash (economic and military aid) if they follow through on their promise to eliminate support for Islamic terrorism. Like the Indians, the Americans are not optimistic and have already demonstrated a willingness to withhold massive amounts of aid if the Pakistanis don’t deliver on their many promises to fight Islamic terrorism.

What has the UN, India and America worried is the fact that Islamic terrorist activity was up in Pakistan during January. There were 16 bomb attacks which left 61 dead and 53 wounded. Pakistan points out that while there were more casualties in January than in December 2014 the January 2015 casualties were 42 percent lower than in January 2014. Unofficially Pakistani officials point out that a larger proportion of the Islamic terrorist deaths are by groups the government does go after. This is all about the long-standing problem of Pakistani violence between different forms of Islam. The main one is Sunni Islamic terrorists going after Shia (who increasingly carry out revenge attacks). This sectarian violence has been present in Pakistan since the country was created nearly 70 years ago and long before that in this part of the world. The Pakistanis get some sympathy from their critics over that but are still pressured to speed up the crackdown on the groups that have long been sponsored by the government (mainly the military and the ISI intelligence agency). This is especially true of the Islamic terrorists who train and send killers into Indian Kashmir. Taking control of Indian Kashmir is still enormously popular with most Pakistanis and that gives the ISI a lot of popular support for these Islamic terror groups. The Indians don’t see it that way because the Islamic terrorists sent into Kashmir to kill have also been sent into other parts of India (like Mumbai and the Indian capital). The ISI implies that attacks outside of Kashmir are no longer approved. But the Indians and the Americans don’t trust the ISI, nor do a growing number of Pakistanis. In January UN and American officials openly accused Pakistan of not cracking down on all Islamic terrorist groups. The Pakistani military denied this, but the Pakistan government was less enthusiastic in its denials.

The cold weather has quieted things down on India’s northern border. Despite its proximity to the equator and the tropics most of this frontier in high in the mountains and this time of the year there is a lot of snow and even colder-than-usual weather. That makes military or terrorist operations much more difficult and this year, like most, things are quiet. At least until the warmer weather arrives in two months or so. Meanwhile the Chinese have noted with interest increased military preparations on the Indian side, where roads and military bases are being built to accommodate a sharp increase in military forces stationed close to the border. The Indians are only following the Chinese example as the Chinese have been doing this for decades.

Economic cooperation between India and Iran is also warming up. The Iranian economic problems have led India to make itself very useful to Iran. Barter deals enabled India to import 42 percent more Iranian oil (276,800 barrels a day) in 2014. India, Russia and Iran have created an unofficial currency union and barter network to facilitate trade that gets around the sanctions. India wants peace with Iran because Iran is often on bad terms with Pakistan.

Economic conditions are less attractive in Pakistan. Despite the dysfunctional government, there are still some countries willing to invest in Pakistan, Baluchistan is also the location of significant cooperative projects with China, biggest of them being expansion of the deep sea port in Gwadar. The plans also include connecting this port to China through road, rail, and fiber optic cables, and in turn making it into a part of a potentially very lucrative trade route, leading from China via Pakistan to the Arabian Sea. But this deal will not work if there is not a reliable supply of electricity. The Chinese keep pointing this out to the Pakistani government but nothing changes. The Chinese are losing patience and many Pakistanis fear that this will not be sufficient incentive to get their rulers to actually rule. Instead misrule survives and thrives. This may even threaten the nuclear power plants China is building in Pakistan and Pakistan cannot afford to lose those power plants.

Since early January Bangladesh has been paralyzed by political violence. The Bangladesh Nationalist Party, which lost the last elections (and was in power before that) has been using large scale demonstrations and blockades to protest corruption (which its leaders are also guilty of, but not as successful at) and this has paralyzed the economy (costing over $10 billion so far) and left nearly a hundred dead. The army insists it will not step in and take over, as it has done twice since 1971. The current crises began in 2009 when Bangladesh finally held its long delayed (by corruption, violence and military rule) elections. The secularist Awami League won 230 of 300 seats in parliament, and formed a government. The Islamic groups failed to attract many votes. Nevertheless, Pakistani and Bangladeshi Islamic radicals still use Bangladesh as a base for terrorist operations inside India. However, the lack of local support, and energetic counter-terror operations across the border in India, has led to most of these Islamic terrorists getting arrested. Bangladesh Nationalist Party never came close to a majority and despite the reality of its much reduced popularity still had millions of supporters and growing conviction that it was corruption not loss of popular support that kept it from power.

February 9, 2015: In northwest India (Kashmir) and anti-government demonstration turned violent and one demonstrator was killed by police.  

February 8, 2015: Pakistan seized fifty Indian trucks that had recently come from India via the only legal crossing. This was retaliation for the seizure the day before in India when 19 Pakistani trucks were found to be carrying drugs. Pakistan is the main smuggling route for Afghan opium and heroin. Most of it goes out to distant markets via the port of Karachi. But there is also a large market for opium and heroin in India and the smugglers and the government officials on both sides of the border that are bribed to allow the drugs to pass now have a problem. Someone screwed up. It’s unclear if some other Indian security organization decided to inspect trucks or someone who was bought did not stay bought for some reason. In any event the Pakistani smugglers are not happy with this situation and have expressed their anger the only way they could.  

February 7, 2015: In northwest Pakistan (Mohmand) troops clashed with armed Taliban and killed seven of the Islamic terrorists.  

February 5, 2015: The first group of six Afghan Army officer cadets arrived in Pakistan for 18 months of free training. Many Afghans fear the training will include trying to turn the cadets into pro-Pakistan officers or even spies for Pakistan.

February 4, 2015: In northwest Pakistan (South Waziristan and Khyber) air strikes killed at least 24 Islamic terrorists. These two areas have been the scene of much increased counter-terrorist activity and so far this year police and soldiers have arrested over 10,000 people suspected of terrorism or support of Islamic terrorists.

February 2, 2015: In eastern India (Chhattisgarh State) the Maoist ambush of a police patrol in a jungle area left two policemen dead and six wounded. This incident led state officials to demand more aggressive action against a particularly violent group of Maoists in the area.

In Pakistan provincial police and courts have so far identified over 1,300 Islamic terrorism suspects for the new military courts to prosecute. These terrorism suspects have long operated with impunity because the police would not arrest them and that was largely because the overburdened (and sometimes pro-terrorist) courts would not or could not (because of inefficiency and corruption) prosecute them. The military courts are supposed to change that. Time will tell.

January 31, 2015: In northern India (including the capital) rail traffic was interrupted for eight hours overnight because of Maoist threats of attacks on railroad targets. There were no attacks but the police halted many trains to double check tracks and bridges for bombs.

Iran protested the Islamic terrorist attack on a Pakistani Shia Mosque the day before that left 69 dead. Such attacks on Pakistani Shia are a regular occurrence that Iran keeps demanding Pakistan do more to prevent.

January 30, 2015: In Pakistan (Sindh Province) a Sunni Islamic terror group (Jundallah) set off a bomb in a Shia mosque killing 69 worshipers and wounding many more. Jundallah has long gone after Shia (and other non-Sunni Moslems) and recently joined ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant). A growing number of the most violent Islamic terrorists in Pakistan have joined or pledged allegiance to ISIL, which appears to be the way for Islamic terrorists to show who is more badass than the other.

January 29, 2015: In eastern India (Jharkhand) police encountered and captured a senior Maoist rebel commander. He was armed and travelling on a motorcycle.

January 27, 2015: In northwest Pakistan (North Waziristan) air strikes killed at least 76 Islamic terrorists and destroyed several hideouts and weapons storage sites.

In northwest India (Kashmir) three soldiers died during a clash with Islamic terrorists from Pakistan.

January 26, 2015: In Pakistan (Karachi) Islamic terrorists killed a policeman guarding polio vaccination teams treating children in the metropolitan area.

January 25, 2015: Pakistan went dark on January 25th because the night before tribal separatists in the southwest (Baluchistan) blew up two power transmission towers. This attack had a major impact on the national energy grid, as it caused a cascading failure of the power distribution network and that quickly took some power plants offline, as they had no way to deliver energy to their customers. Over 80 percent of Pakistan was blacked out, leaving 77 percent of the 182 million Pakistanis without power. While about half the affected areas had power restored in less than a day, it took several days before power was restored everywhere, and situation returns to normal. Blacked out areas included major cities like Lahore, Karachi, and even Pakistan's capital, Islamabad. Pakistan has had problems maintaining its electrical infrastructure for decades, leading to many small and large scale blackouts even before this record breaking attack. Terrorist violence, however, is not the primary problem here. Circular debt, persistent problems with widespread non-payment of electricity bills, illegal power tapping, and corruption put the utility companies in debt, leaving the state oil company with no credit and the power producers with no capital to fund modernizations of the old grid, or even proper and regular maintenance. Terrorism is just another way to make an already bad situation worse.

January 24, 2015: In northwest Pakistan (North Waziristan) air strikes killed at least 35 Islamic terrorists.

January 19, 2015: In northwest Pakistan (North Waziristan) American UAVs used missiles to kill five Islamic terrorists.

Pakistani officials say they have banned the Haqqani Network Islamic terrorists but for reasons they refused to discuss have not been able to officially announce the ban yet. Local observers believe the reason is ISI opposition to doing anything to further weaken Haqqani, which is considered a valuable ISI intelligence tool inside Afghanistan.

 

 

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