India-Pakistan: The Unruly And Unresponsive Neighbor

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August 25, 2015: Another round of peace talks between India and Pakistan quickly collapsed because the Pakistani military refused to participate and there were numerous disagreements over what could be discussed. India expected this and so did the United States which promptly threatened Pakistan with a major cut ($300 million for starters) in aid if Pakistan did not address the problem of the “good Islamic terrorists” they support. This has long been a major issue for India and Afghanistan and, since 2001 the United States as well. All three nations are united about their “Pakistan Problem”. All this began during the 1970s and 80s when the Pakistani military government decided that Islamic radicalism would work to defeat India in Kashmir. But many of the Islamic radical groups eventually turned against the Pakistani government which led to some embarrassing counter-terror campaigns where some Islamic terror groups were left alone. Most Pakistani officials do not even want to admit this connection, although it is no secret inside Pakistan and is a major issue in India and Afghanistan.

Since September 11, 2001 the Pakistani military has pretended to fight certain Islamic terror organizations (that continue to attack India) while actually protecting them. When cornered with proof, the Pakistani generals just deny everything and insist that there’s a conspiracy afoot. There is very little trust between American (and Indian or Afghan) and Pakistani military officials when it comes to Pakistan based Islamic terror groups. U.S. officials consider the Pakistani military, especially the ISI (military intelligence) pro-terrorist and untrustworthy. The CIA and ISI still work together, but only with the understanding that the United States realizes the Pakistanis have divided loyalties. This lack of trust, and ISI determination to continue using terrorism, is the major problem the United States (and India and Afghanistan) has, and has had, with Pakistan. To get around this, the United States has insisted that foreign aid will only be delivered if there are verifiable accomplishments (usually against Islamic terrorists) by Pakistan. The Americans have had to cope with all manner of clever game playing by the Pakistanis and there seems to be no end of it. When it comes to Islamic terrorism the Americans join India and Afghanistan in continuing to pressure Pakistan to change its use of Islamic terrorism as a foreign policy tool.  Pakistan continues to refuse to cooperate or, in most cases, even admit that they are the problem. It is popular inside Pakistan to believe that all the Islamic terrorist violence in Pakistan is caused by India or the United States.

There is growing public anger among Indian civilians and politicians over the continuing and escalating Pakistani Army attacks on the border, particularly Kashmir. Through the end of July Pakistani troops violated the 2003 ceasefire agreement 199 times. This usually involved firing with machine-guns and mortars at Indian troops across the LOC (Line of Control). The Indians usually return fire and because of that Pakistan claims India has violated the ceasefire 70 times through the end of July. Attacks like this have occurred over 1,100 times since 2013, leaving nearly 40 Indians dead, about half of them civilians. There were 347 violations in 2013 and 583 in 2014. Pakistan has suffered more casualties because many of these attacks were to provide a distraction so that Islamic terrorists based and trained in Pakistan could sneak into India. There is another reason for these unprovoked attacks as they are apparently an important part of an effort to keep the Pakistani Army “India is preparing to attack us” conspiracy theory alive.

Pakistani generals believe India can’t really do anything because of the risk of nuclear war. But more and more Indians are turning that around and theorizing that if Indian troops crossed the LOC and seized the Pakistani half of Kashmir and all those Islamic terrorist bases they could at least get Pakistan to agree to shut down their “good” (only attack India) Islamic terror groups. The Indians believe the Pakistanis would not start a nuclear war over this and that sort of talk showing up in Indian media with increasing frequency has got Pakistani leaders concerned.

Many Westerners find the Pakistani attitudes towards Islamic terrorism hard to believe, but you need only peruse Pakistani media (plenty of it has English language versions) to see the twisted logic in action. In addition to problems with the Pakistani “good terrorists” you also have the many Pakistani politicians (and their supporters) who believe a peace deal can be negotiated with the Islamic terrorists. Since 2010 Pakistani army leaders were increasingly outspoken in their criticism of these peace efforts. The army is convinced that the terrorists have no intention of negotiating anything other than the elimination of democracy in Pakistan. A majority of Pakistanis oppose that although a large minority would back such a move. The government finally agreed to use more force against the Islamic terror groups only after the civilian leadership became convinced that negotiations were impossible. This led to the 2014 counter-terror offensives in the northwest and Karachi.

Afghanistan and the United States are waiting for Pakistan to do something positive about getting the Afghan Taliban to make peace in Afghanistan. At the end of July the Afghan Taliban announced the selection of a new leader (Mullah Akhtar Mansour) to replace founder and longtime leader Mullah Omar. Mansour has been the acting head of the Taliban since 2010 because Mullah Omar was said to have health problems. In the last week the Taliban admitted that Omar had been dead since 2013 but have not revealed exactly why his death was concealed. The reason may have been to maintain unity because after the appointment of Mansour was made several Taliban factions went public complaining of how the selection was made. The Afghan Taliban is known to be sharply divided over the subject of peace talks with the Afghan government. Some factions also complain openly that Pakistan (in the form of the ISI) actually controls the Taliban leaders living in Baluchistan under the protection of the ISI. Mansour backs peace talks while Omar was said to have opposed them. The official shift in Taliban leadership caused the resumption of peace talks (between the Taliban and the Afghan government) scheduled for today to be delayed until sometime in the future.

While the counter-terror operations in northwest Pakistan are winding down the less-publicized one in Karachi continues. Together these counter-terror operations have reduced civilian terrorist deaths for two years in a row. The campaign in Karachi is more political and military compared to the entirely military operation in the northwest and especially North Waziristan (which has been so dominated by Islamic terrorists that there has been no effective government there for nearly a decade.).

Starting in 2013 the government and military agreed to cooperate in pacifying Karachi. Military involvement in policing cities has always been contentious in Pakistan but the situation in Karachi is considered a special case. The offensive against Islamic terrorists in the northwest, begun in mid-2014, uncovered (via prisoners and captured documents) plans by several Islamic terror groups to carry out a major expansion into Karachi (the largest city in Pakistan, where about eight percent of all Pakistanis live). In response the army has shifted forces to Karachi in 2015. So far in 2015 this appears to have succeeded with major crime (murder, kidnapping, extortion and grand theft) all down more than 60 percent. In Karachi the battles are different and the Islamic terrorists have some unique disadvantages. Many Taliban fled the fighting in North Waziristan and went to Karachi, which has a large Pushtun population. Actually the population of Karachi has doubled since 2001 in large part because so many Pushtuns (Afghan and Pakistani) have moved in to Karachi to get away from the tribal feuds and Islamic terrorists in the northwest. So when the Taliban show up in a Pushtun neighborhood they are often quietly reported to the police. Cell phones make this easy, and unlike the tribal territories, the Taliban cannot shut down cell phone service, even briefly, in Karachi.

Despite the Taliban connection the main goal of the security operation in Karachi is to shut down (or greatly reduce) the criminal activities of the Islamic terrorists and their political allies. These groups need money and they find it easy to use extortion and kidnapping to raise cash. The dozens of separate crews (often part of a larger Islamic terror group) have been identified pursued and killed or captured. Another target is the many religious schools that are actually bases and training centers for Islamic terror groups. Nearly 200 illegal religious schools were found in Sindh province (where Karachi is) and 44 of these were found to have links with Islamic terror groups. Most (24) of those religious schools are in Karachi and the government is going after all the illegal (refused to register and be monitored) religious schools, starting with those know to be used by Islamic terrorists. This could still get ugly because sometimes the clerics running these schools call on their faculty and students to resist the government with force. So far that has not been a major problem.

The most difficult foe in Karachi has been the many gangs (some Islamic radicals, many not) with connections to the two feuding political parties in Karachi and the surrounding Sindh province. It was the violent practices of these two political parties in Karachi that made military intervention there acceptable. Even many leaders of these two parties quietly went along with the Karachi operation, in the hope that it would break an escalating cycle of violence.

The June 2014 Pakistani anti-terrorist offensive has killed nearly 3,000 Islamic terrorists country wide (but mostly in North Waziristan) and led to many more surrendering, deserting or fleeing to Afghanistan or other parts of the country. The military estimates that over 20,000 Islamic terrorists were in North Waziristan in June 2014. Nearly all of these Islamic terrorists have been killed or driven out of North Waziristan. Some 2,500 were captured, providing lots of information on Islamic terrorist operations in North Waziristan and elsewhere in the region. There has been a noticeable drop in terrorist attacks against civilians but intelligence specialists know that the terror groups are scrambling to reorganize and rebuild, so the war offensive continues but at a different pace and with different tactics. The army is also studying how to deal with tribal feuds once more. For centuries these have been the major cause of violent deaths in the northwest. Many Islamic terror groups in the northwest are based on tribal affiliation but grew larger by allowing outsiders (including foreigners) to join. With the suppression of most Islamic terror groups the military expects a return to the normal violence of heavily armed tribal militias fighting each other and outsiders (the security forces).

Despite the continued Pakistani support of Islamic terrorists in India and Kashmir those efforts continue to fumble. Since 2010 Islamic terrorism related deaths in northwest India have been steady at 150-200 a year. This year looks no different. Moreover Islamic terrorists only account for about twenty percent of the terror related deaths in India. The largest source of such violence lately has been separatist tribal rebels in the northeast. This year that situation is on track to generate 50 percent more violence than the Islamic terrorists of the northwest. Meanwhile the leftist Maoist rebels of eastern India are in decline, although they will always have some popular support as long as the government does nothing about the corruption and economic problems in areas where the Maoists have long thrived. Then there is Pakistan where, despite sharp declines (by more than 50 percent) in terrorist violence in the last two years is still much more violent than India. Pakistan has one-sixth the population of India but currently has nearly three times as many terrorist related deaths.

August 23, 2015: Two days of peace talks between India and Pakistan were cancelled because neither side could agree on the agenda.

In northwest Pakistan (Khyber) Islamic terrorists in Afghanistan fired rockets at Pakistani troops killing four of them and wounding four others. The attackers are believed to have been some of the Pakistani Islamic terrorists driven out of Pakistan in the last year.

August 20, 2015: In northwest Pakistan (North Waziristan) the army finally began its ground operations in the Shawal valley. This was preceded by months of increasingly frequent air and artillery attacks. Since June these bombs and shells are believed to have killed or wounded over 2,000 Islamic terrorists in the valley. This is one of the last Islamic terrorist hideouts in North Waziristan as well as an ancient smuggling route into Afghanistan and base for many smugglers. The army moved several thousand troops into the area for this operation which is being supported by artillery, warplanes and helicopters (transports and gunships). The plan was always that the infantry would not advance until the Islamic terrorists had been demoralized by air and artillery attacks. The Pakistanis are cooperating with Afghan troops in the other side of the border to share information and coordinate operations to minimize the number of Islamic terrorists who try to move their operations into Afghanistan. The few remaining Islamic terrorists in the valley are there to die fighting and Pakistani troops have adjusted their tactics to deal with that. The army says this operation is expected to last at least six weeks. At that point the entire North Waziristan border with Afghanistan will be under army control.

August 19, 2015: In Indian Kashmir (Poonch) Pakistani troops opened fire on four more Indian border posts. Four civilians were wounded. This makes six Pakistani ceasefire violations in 24 hours.

August 18, 2015: In Indian Kashmir (Poonch) Pakistani troops opened fire on two Indian border posts. The Indians returned fire but there were no casualties.  

August 16, 2015:  In Pakistan (Punjab) an Islamic terrorist suicide bomber attacked the home of a senior official (the Home Minister) of the provincial government killing him and twelve others. The Taliban later took credit for the attack, saying it was retaliation for army operations in the northwest. Despite attacks like this, Islamic terrorist violence against civilians is way down in the last two years.

August 15, 2015: In Indian Kashmir (Poonch) Pakistani troops opened fire on an Indian border village using 120mm mortars. Six Indian civilians were killed The Indians returned fire and pointed out that the village had no Indian military presence at all.   

August 14, 2015: In Afghanistan a senior official (First Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum) publicly repeated what many Afghans have been saying; the Pakistan continues to support Islamic terrorists operating in Afghanistan.

August 11, 2015: In Indian Kashmir (Poonch) Pakistani troops opened fire on Indian troops who returned fire. Apparently there were no casualties.

 

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