June 7, 2016:
Afghanistan continues pressuring Pakistan to shut down the Taliban sanctuary in southwest Pakistan. The pressure has been a little more intense recently because an American UAV missile killed (on May 21st) the head of the Afghan Taliban (Mullah Mansour) in southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan). Afghanistan considers the Pakistani military the main backer of continued Taliban violence in Afghanistan. Pakistan refuses to shut down the Afghan Taliban in southwest Pakistan and says it will not pressure the Afghan Taliban to negotiate a peace deal unless Afghanistan shows it is decisively defeating the Taliban militarily. That intransigence is what apparently led to the American UAV attack in Baluchistan. The Pakistani attitude has not just made the Afghans angry, but the United States and India as well. The Americans have cut their military aid to Pakistan, which includes halting sales of F-16s. Pakistan refused to give in and by late May admitted that it was probably not going to get the eight F-16s. Then came the attack on the Taliban leader, which Pakistan denounced as illegal.
India, Afghanistan and the United States have become increasingly aggressive in demanding that Pakistan end the sanctuary it has provided the Afghan Taliban since 2002 and other Islamic terrorists since the 1980s. Afghanistan points out that recent security agreements between the two countries obliges Pakistan to shut down all Islamic terrorist sanctuaries and Pakistan says it has done so even while the Afghan Taliban continue of operate openly in southwest Pakistan and in northwest Pakistan Islamic terrorist camps continue to train Pakistanis (and a few Indians) to become effective terrorists and cross the border into India to kill and terrorize. The Pakistanis lie just as unconvincingly to India about this.
Afghan officials also accuse Pakistan of controlling much of what the Afghan Taliban does, including ordering terror attacks inside Afghanistan. If Pakistan continues to deny any involvement with all this Afghanistan is threatening to take the matter to the UN and other international tribunals. Meanwhile the main Afghan Taliban sanctuary remains in Quetta. This is the capital of Baluchistan and just south of the Taliban homeland in Kandahar and Helmand provinces. Quetta was always off limits to the American UAVs and remained a sanctuary despite constant and increasingly angry calls from the United States and Afghanistan to shut down the sanctuaries. The recent attack on the Taliban leader shook up Pakistani leaders because it means the possibility of escalation of tensions with the United States that could create a situation Pakistan could not handle. Pakistan has long been dismissive of Afghan protests and either ignored them or dismissed them with curt denials. The reality is that Pakistan considers Afghanistan a client state. The Afghans are considered a collection of fractious tribes pretending to be a nation. Many Pakistanis believe Afghanistan must be controlled by Pakistan, as much as possible. This is why Pakistan created the Taliban in the mid-1990s. Then there is the economic dependence. With no access to the sea, most Afghan road connections to ports are via Pakistan. The Afghans have long resented this and are supporting an effort to upgrade a port in neighboring Iran and extend highways and railroads to the Afghan border. This will replace the dependence on Pakistani roads.
With another Taliban leader dead there is fear that the Afghan Taliban, weakened by internal divisions and the hatred of most Afghans, is increasingly turning to the Haqqani Network for help in planning and carrying out attacks. Apparently the current head of the Haqqani Network has been made the number two leader of the Afghan Taliban and put in charge of all military operations. The Haqqani Network has survived since the 1980s by being very much an obedient servant of Pakistan. That meant no terror attacks in Pakistan and, when called on, carrying out specific attacks that Pakistani intelligence (ISI) wanted (usually in Afghanistan). Unlike the Afghan Taliban, Haqqani keeps most of its operations in Pakistan and operates in Afghanistan (mainly between the border and Kabul) to carry out attacks and run their various criminal activities (for raising cash). Jalaluddin Haqqani died in 2o14 and his successor (Siraj Haqqani) continued to cooperate with the Taliban and maintain subservience to ISI. Because Jalaluddin Haqqani helped Mullah Omar and other Taliban leaders escape Afghanistan in 2001 there has always been a sense of mutual dependence. For that reason Haqqani leaders were able to help fix the current power struggle within the Taliban and thwart the recruiting efforts of ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant). Given that Haqqani works for ISI, Pakistan is believed to have played a role in this peace making effort. The Afghan government protested to Pakistan about this but, as usual, Pakistan insisted it had nothing to do with Haqqani, the Taliban or supporting Islamic terrorism of any kind. The Taliban reconciliation deal appears to have involved an understanding that if anything happened to Monsour a powerless figurehead would be appointed the new leader and Siraj Haqqani would officially run the Haqqani Network and unofficially call the shots for the Afghan Taliban.
Al Qaeda Update
Pakistani police officials report that AQIS (Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent) has survived two years of attacks by security forces and rival Islamic terrorist groups. AQIS did this by settling down in Karachi, long a haven for all sorts of criminal activity and forged alliances with the major Islamic terrorist organizations there. To make those alliances work AQIS cannot recruit from those other Islamic terror groups and that has slowed growth. Most of the AQIS violence since 2014 has been against police and other security forces in Karachi. AQIS considers these attacks necessary to survival as it helps keep the security forces from knowing too much or getting too close. This comes as a surprise to many Pakistanis because by the end of 2014 Pakistani police in Karachi appeared to have killed or arrested most of the key members of the recently formed AQIS. Since its formation in 2014 AQIS has been responsible for only one major terror attack in Pakistan and that one failed spectacularly. This was the September 2014 effort, made possible by five recently recruited Pakistani naval officers, to hijack a Pakistani frigate and somehow use it to do more damage. Only three days before the Karachi attack Al Qaeda announced the formation of AQIS. The organization was created to manage and support operations in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka as well as India. Islamic terrorism experts believe this was largely a publicity stunt by al Qaeda to counter the growing popularity of the more radical ISIL. Indian Moslems have produced some recruits for Islamic terrorism, but not enough to produce the level of mayhem Islamic terrorists wanted. Lacking a lot of radical clergy and religious schools India has simply not produced a lot of radicalized young men willing to kill and be killed.
Then in 2014 came the two year Pakistan military campaign in North Waziristan that killed or chased away most of the Islamic terrorists there and forced most of the civilians out for over a year. This denied groups like al Qaeda any hope of finding a refuse in Pakistan. As those North Waziristan refugees return they are finding that much has changed. As has happened elsewhere in the tribal territories, when the Islamic terrorists are chased out, things change, usually for the better. This is a pattern that goes way back. Pakistan's problems along the Afghan border are mostly about the difficulty integrating its Pushtun and Baluchi tribes into the nation of Pakistan. In southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan) there are the Baluchi, and in the northwest there are the Pushtun. Both groups are very territorial, and hostile to outsiders. But people from Punjab (48 percent of the population) and Sindh (29 percent) are better educated and possess technical skills lacking in the Pushtun tribal territories (16 percent) and Baluchistan (seven percent), and must be brought in to do work requiring education and experience. While Sindh province has economic development levels similar to India, the tribal territories are more similar to the less developed nations in Africa. What the tribes lack in economic development they make up for in terms of aggressiveness and hostility towards the more numerous and wealthier lowlanders. For thousands of years, these mountain tribes raided and plundered their lowland neighbors. But the last time that happened was nearly a century ago, when Pushtuns from Afghanistan joined tribal brethren on the other (British India) side of the border and headed for the lowlands. The tribesmen didn't make it far and spent three months trying. Folks along the border still talk about that one. When Pakistan was created in 1947, the tribes were still not pacified, and were a sixth of the population. Ever since then a growing number of Pushtun and Baluchi moved into the lowlands (especially the cities, like Karachi) while many lowlanders moved into the tribal areas, bringing needed skills and a veneer of government and modern civilization. But the tribal leaders and their ancient form of government persisted, as did the custom of most adult males being armed, and ready to fight (or turn into a bandit). This, as much as the corrupt and self-serving Pakistani military has defined and defiled the history of Pakistan. But one major after effect of the North Waziristan campaign is that the government will henceforth have a lot more presence in this area and tribal power will be forever limited. Many Pushtun don’t like this, but a majority do or don’t care.
In Bangladesh the Home Minister (who is responsible for internal security nationwide) has been under increasing criticism for the government inability to stop the murders of critics of Islamic terrorism. There have been over 40 such deaths since January 2015 and the government has so far caught very few suspects and only one is on trial so far. There have been no convictions yet and the Home Minister in particular and the government general apparently fears openly criticizing Islamic terrorists, who have claimed responsibility for most of the deaths. Instead, the Home Minister is now blaming Israel for somehow creating the situation. This is a popular fantasy in majority Moslem countries, especially when government officials are criticized for not being able to deal with local Islamic terrorists. In the last week there were two more victims. One was death was in the port of Chittagong where the wife of a police commander (investigating Islamic terrorism) was murdered. The other death was in the rural north where a Christian grocer was killed. Local Islamic terrorists have been openly boasting of their war against the “enemies of Islam”. Most of the victims (like the police commanders wife) were killed because they openly criticized Islamic terrorism. Others are killed for openly (often on the Internet) supporting the fact that Bangladesh is officially secular. Many victims are targeted because they are not Moslem. Only about one percent of the population is Christian (and eight percent Hindu) the majority (nearly 90 percent) are Moslem. While a minority of those Moslems are sympathetic to Islamic terrorists who are “defending Islam” the majority of the 15o million Bangladeshi Moslems oppose this and are becoming more active in trying to eliminate this outbreak of Islamic terrorism. The government has been slow to act. What is really unusual about all this is that Bangladesh already has far less Islamic terrorism activity than most other Moslem nations. For example, with 75 percent of the population of Pakistan (which is used to be part of until 1971) it has less than two percent as many Islamic terrorism related deaths. Bangladesh had 56 Islamic terrorism related deaths in 2015, down from 60 in 2014 and a record 379 in 2013. The 2013 surge was 69 percent of all Islamic terrorist deaths since 2005 and a sign that Islamic terrorism continues to have a difficult time getting a foothold in Bangladesh. Actually most of the terrorism related deaths were political rather than religious but since 2011 Islamic terrorism has gotten a lot more attention in the news. The government is also increasing its cooperation with India and the United States in identifying and tracking Islamic terrorists. Its efforts like this that have kept Islamic terrorist activity low in Bangladesh. Despite all this, some Islamic terrorists manage to survive and terrorize.
The biggest security problem for India is not China or Pakistan but internal and has little to do with religion. This is mainly about leftist rebels and tribal separatists. In eastern India deaths related to Maoist violence are up so far in 2016 and about half those deaths are in Chhattisgarh State, where the Maoists are strongest and most active. In the first five months of 2016 there were 196 deaths attributed to leftist (mainly Maoist) violence. For all of 2015 there were 251 such deaths and that was the end of downward trend that began in 2010 when there were 1,18o deaths. Currently only a quarter of the terrorist deaths each year are caused by Islamic terrorists and nearly all of that violence is in Kashmir. Violence is down in Kashmir this year. In the northeast the largest source (38 percent) of terrorism deaths nationwide (tribal rebels) are declining. The Maoists see themselves as facing extinction (communism as a global movement died in the 1990s) and the remaining ones in eastern India are trying real hard to survive. This includes a lot more terrorism (mainly bombings) and that means a lot more civilians killed. The Maoists are apparently willing to suffer the further loss of popular support those civilian deaths creates if it will help the remaining Maoists survive.
June 4, 2016: In northern India (Uttar Pradesh) a police clash with armed Hindu nationalists left thirty dead in the last few days. Most of the dead were radical Hindus, two local police commanders and several policemen also died. The violence was triggered by a police effort to remove 3,000 armed Hindu nationalists from more than 100 hectares (280 acres) of government owned land they had been illegally occupying since 2014. The battle here is not over and the police have already made hundreds of arrests in their search for those responsible for the police deaths. Hindu nationalists are often violently anti-Moslem but this group ('Azad Bharat Vidhik Vaicharik Kranti Satyagrahi') have concentrated on recruiting and proclaiming their intention of somehow creating a Hindu religious dictatorship replace democracy in India. Hindu nationalism has long been a problem in Uttar Pradesh State but usually manifested itself in anti-Moslem violence. This latest outbreak is considered an aberration and a deadly one.
The last large outbreak of Hindu nationalist violence in the area was during 2013. That one left 28 dead, most of them Moslems. Dozens more were missing and feared dead. Additional police were called in and over a hundred arrests were made in a successful effort to halt the violence. There have been similar incidents in this area since the early 1990s. In 2009 an Indian government report, which took 16 years to complete, concluded that Hindu nationalist (BJP) politicians planned the 1992 riots that destroyed a 16th-century mosque in the Uttar Pradesh town of Ayodhya, which had been built on the ruins of an even older Hindu temple. This kicked off Hindu violence that left over 2,000 Moslems dead.
June 3, 2016: Pakistan announced a new defense budget (for the year beginning July 1st) that would be 15 percent higher than last year. The $9.1 billion Pakistan spends on defense is 22 percent of all government spending and 2.6 percent of GDP. For the last five years Pakistan has, on average, increased its defense spending about 11 percent a year. Neighboring India spends over $52 billion a year and Indian defense spending rose less than one percent in 2016 but that was enough to put in sixth place among national defense budgets worldwide. China’s defense spending ($214 billion) is the largest in the region and second largest in the world. Defense spending in South Asia has risen nearly 50 percent since 2001. The main cause is the aggressive territorial claims of China and the continuing belief in the Pakistani military that India is engaged in a well concealed plot to take over Pakistan. The large portion of government spending going to the military is under growing criticism inside Pakistan, mainly because Pakistan lags way behind India and China when it comes to spending on education, infrastructure and public health. The Pakistani government tries to justify the high defense spending by pointing out that since 2011 Pakistan has suffered $57 billion in economic losses because of Islamic terrorism. That is tragic but the neighbors (and the United States) point out that those losses are largely because Pakistan has supported Islamic terrorists since the 1970s and continues to do so even though many Islamic terror groups have declared war on Pakistan.
June 1, 2016: After over a week of denying the event took place Pakistan is now admitting that an American UAV did indeed kill Afghan Taliban supreme leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour and did so on southwest Pakistan, an area that has always been off-limits to U.S. UAVs. A Pakistani general called this a violation of Pakistani sovereignty that must stop.
May 30, 2016: In the southeast (Karachi) a Chinese engineer was wounded by an Islamic terrorist roadside bomb. His driver and a nearby civilian were also wounded. Pakistan has repeatedly promised China that it would protect the thousands of additional Chinese coming to help with the $47 billion Chinese investment in a new port, roads, railroads and other infrastructure that Pakistan desperately needs. Pakistan has formed a new security force (with 15,000 personnel) dedicated to protecting the Chinese in Pakistan.
May 23, 2016: Indian and Iranian leaders finally signed the contract to jointly pay for expanding the port of Chabahar in southeastern Iran. This new contract includes a $150 million loan from India and India supplying over $400 million worth of steel for the 1,300 kilometers long rail line from the port to the Afghan border in the north. Ultimately the Indians will provide over two billions dollars’ worth of investments for this project. That includes work on the port and new roads and railroads to Afghanistan and Central Asia. Because of the 2015 treaty that lifted economic sanctions on Iran India could now legally become a major investor. This project hurts Pakistan, which currently monopolizes the movement of most Afghan imports and exports. Yet Iran can now go forward with a long-delayed (by sanctions) project to build a natural gas pipeline to Pakistan, as well as electrical power transmission lines. Pakistan is suffering debilitating power shortages and Iran is the most immediate source of help. Iran is particularly eager to help Pakistan because Pakistan is the only Moslem country where a majority (57 percent) of the people (over 70 percent Sunni) have a positive view of Iran. Afghanistan sees great benefits from lifting recent peace deal). This new agreement between India and Iran means a lot for Afghanistan, where India is spending over $100 million to extend a highway to the Iranian border where the new rail link from Chabahar will end. Once Chabahar is operational at the end of the decade, Pakistan, and its main ally China, fear that their strategic situation will get much worse for them. This is all about the shift in South-Asian alliances since the Cold War ended in 1991. Pakistan is particularly worried about the growing ties between India, Afghanistan and Iran. Pakistan and Iran have never been close. Before the British showed up and united India in the 19th century there were north Indian empires that for centuries fought Iranians for control of Afghanistan. Relations between what is now Afghanistan and Pakistan were never good and are no different today. Then there is China, the only major-power ally Pakistan can sort of depend on. China supports Pakistan in part to try and weaken the growing U.S.-Indian alliance. That has not worked out so well.
May 22, 2016: In eastern India (Jharkhand) police, acting on a tip, found a cache of 59 bombs buried in a forest. These were “Tiffin Bombs” which have become particularly popular with Maoist rebels because explosives and detonators are easily hidden in the widely used metal lunch containers called “Tiffin carriers”. These small (15-20cm tall, 10-12cm in diameter) circular containers contain several sections that fit together. They are all over the place and can carry up to 10 kg (22 pounds) of explosives. But most have less than a tenth of that so they are more difficult to detect. While meant to kill police or soldiers most of the victims are civilians and that means more civilians willing to tip off the police where these bombs are being made or stored.
May 21, 2016: In the southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan) an American UAV used a missile to kill Afghan
Taliban supreme leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour as he drove back from Iran, which was quickly accused of helping the Americans track Mansour but denied this. Iran is generally hostile to the Taliban because that group has killed thousands of Afghan Shia. Yet Iran has helped the Taliban in the past when it was believed that aid would get Americans killed. The Mansour attack was made possible because American intelligence knew that Mansour frequently travelled to Iran and managed to track Mansour travelling from the Taliban sanctuary in southwest Pakistan (Quetta) and then returning the same way. When Mansour’s car was alone on a rural Pakistani road, the missile was launched. Mansour was quickly replaced with an unknown cleric who was believed to be a figurehead for the real new leader, who is also the head of the Haqqani Network. Mansour had only recently managed to deal several with internal threats to his leadership. He was shot and wounded during a December 2015 meeting with dissident Taliban. He recovered and kept negotiating until he calmed down the dissidents. It was Mansour who, for two years, hid the fact that founding leader Mullah Omar had died in a Pakistani hospital in 2013. This led many Afghans to wonder if you could trust the Taliban if the Taliban didn’t trust each other. But Mansour had been founder Mullah Omar’s chief deputy for many years and knew his way around the organization as well as traditional allies like the Haqqani clan. The Taliban admitted that in the two years since Omar died Mansour frequently travelled to Iran and the Persian Gulf (mainly Dubai) to arrange for financial and other support (like buying weapons to be smuggled into Afghanistan via Pakistan or Iran). Dubai has long harbored criminal gangs with international connections and that will do business with anyone who can pay. Because of these foreign connections and his ability to deal with internal dissent Mansour was clearly in charge and began implementing some policies his predecessor Mullah Omar opposed or was not enthusiastic about. This included no interest at all in peace talks with the Afghan government and active support for al Qaeda. The death of Mansour changed that because now factions that backed peace talks are again openly holding talks with the Afghan government. Pakistan does not like this because they created the Taliban to keep Afghanistan weak. Despite all the evidence of his visits Iran denied that Mansour was travelling from Iran when he was killed.