Pakistan continues to resist foreign (especially American) pressure to halt its decade’s long practice of secretly supporting Islamic terrorist groups. The United States openly accuses Pakistan of lying about shutting down some key Islamic terrorist groups (like the Haqqani Network, al Qaeda and several that operate against India) in Pakistan. This pressure is nothing new and has led to a sharp (73 percent) drop in American military assistance since 2011. That is now costing Pakistan over a billion dollars a year as well as access to high-tech American military equipment. The U.S. has also cut economic assistance by about half since 2011 and that is costing Pakistan another half billion dollars a year. Now the United States threatens to cut all aid and impose sanctions if Pakistan does not act. The main sore point here is continued Pakistani support for the Afghan Taliban (and their Baluchistan sanctuary), various Islamic terror groups that concentrate on India (with bases throughout Pakistan but especially in the north, near the border with Indian Kashmir) and the Haqqani Network. This last group was supposedly driven out of its longtime sanctuary in North Waziristan by a 2014 Pakistani military offensive but is still seen operating in northwest Pakistan on both sides of the Afghan border. 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). Founder 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 mid-2015 power struggle within the Taliban and thwart the recruiting efforts of ISIL. Given that Haqqani works for ISI, Pakistan is believed to have played a role in this new arrangement. 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, by the end of 2015, 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. That’s what happened in late May after Monsour was killed by an American UAV missile attack. Now the Haqqani Network and its leader is seen as the most powerful Pakistani sponsored Islamic terrorists in Afghanistan.
Decades of Pakistani efforts to gain a degree of control over Afghanistan have backfired, especially inside Afghanistan. There the primary Pakistani allies are drug gangs, corrupt politicians and Islamic terrorists. Not surprisingly these three groups are the most hated inside Afghanistan and despite death threats and bribes the Afghan media and a growing number of usually quiet (out of fear) politicians, prominent preachers and tribal leaders are speaking out. This was mostly out of self-interest as most of Afghanistan’s worst problems could be traced back to Pakistan. The biggest problem is illegal drugs, mainly opium and heroin. Pakistan drove the drug gangs out of its own tribal territories in the 1980s but the drug business simply moved to Afghanistan and both countries now suffer from widespread addiction and the growing financial and political (via bribes) power of gangsters thriving on drug profits. Afghanistan is the largest producer of heroin in the world and drugs are a major part of the economy, especially in the south (Kandahar and Helmand provinces). This is where most of the Taliban leadership and manpower came (and still come) from. Pakistan admit they created the Taliban, but only to stop the 1990s civil war in Afghanistan. That wasn’t true. Pakistan expected the Taliban to ensure that whatever government was running Afghanistan, Pakistani needs would be tended to. That meant tolerance for the drug trade (which made many Pakistanis rich), no contacts with India and no criticism of the Pakistani military or its intelligence branch (the ISI). But the Taliban and the drug gangs have been tearing Afghanistan apart ever since. Only about ten percent of Afghans got any economic benefit out of the drug business and millions of Afghans, Pakistanis and people throughout the region have become drug addicts. Afghan leaders also noted that more and more of the most talented and promising young Afghans were leaving. They would work hard as long as it took to raise enough money to hire people smugglers to get them to someplace safer and more promising. Afghan was neither, even if you had a lot of money. The problem is that entrenched and well financed problems are difficult to change. Corruption is particularly difficult to reduce (you never completely eliminate it).
One thing that finally turned Afghan leadership against Pakistan was the realization that ISI was even willing to support ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) suicide bombing in Afghanistan. The destruction of ISIL is one thing all Moslem nations (not to mention the non-Moslem world) can agree on. Because of the ISIL connection most Afghans now agree Pakistan is the biggest threat to Afghanistan. A growing number of Pakistanis believe this as well, which alarms the Pakistani military than anything the Afghans might say.
China Plays India
Despite the growing Chinese military threat India has so far declined to become very active in condemning Chinese efforts to gain control of the South China Sea. Pakistan openly backs China, which is seeking international support after losing a case in the UN backed Permanent Court of Arbitration over claims to own the South China Sea. China is apparently willing make a deal with India to prevent India from backing the Permanent Court of Arbitration. In short China will ease up on its claims to Indian territory and not take sides in the Indian dispute with Pakistan over Kashmir. India will also encourage Chinese investment in India. This is an attractive proposition for India, which is having problems (corruption mainly) modernizing its armed forces to match what China is doing. Same problem with matching Chinese economic growth. The Philippines brought the Court of Arbitration suit and China said it would ignore the case and any unfavorable ruling. India urged China to seek peaceful resolution of those disputes, but many Indians now wonder if India would win a similar suit challenging Chinese claims on Indian territory. In August 2015 India went public with its support for Vietnam and other nations in the area opposing Chinese South China Sea ambitions. The Chinese claims are in violation of several international treaties. India has long criticized the Chinese position but starting in 2015 was more public about it. Now that the case has been decided India is being more diplomatic and waiting for China to make it worthwhile for India to remain neutral. This is acceptable to China, it’s just a matter of negotiating a mutually agreeable price. For its part during the last week India announced that new airbases were operational along the Chinese border and one of the new army units being based near that border would be equipped with the new land-based version of the three ton BrahMos cruise missile. This weapon is difficult to intercept and would be aimed at Chinese bases near the Indian border.
August 24, 2016: In northwest Pakistan (Khyber) the army has been searching the sparsely populate Afghan border area to find Islamic terrorists hideouts and set up outposts to block trails and passes Islamic terrorists use to move between Pakistan and Afghanistan. After about a week of efforts 43 hideouts and weapons caches (hidden storage sites) had been found and destroyed. In most cases the Islamic terrorists detected the approach of the soldiers and fled but there were some clashes and 40 Islamic terrorists were killed and 21 wounded. A lot of the searching and attacking was done from the air using helicopters, UAVs and F-16s armed with smart bombs. The troops on the ground were crucial for searching camps and storage sites to find documents and other information about Islamic terrorist organizations and plans. Some of the storage sites contained lots of ammo and bomb making components. Some completed bombs were found as well.
In southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan) someone (Islamic terrorists, gangsters or tribal separatists) set off a bomb near a bus stop and wounded eleven people. Elsewhere in the area troops clashed with tribal separatists and killed five of them. Near this clash police arrested two suspected tribal separatists.
Across the border in Afghanistan (Khost province, adjacent to North Waziristan) an American UAV missile attack killed Inayat Shah, a much wanted (by just about everyone) Pakistan Taliban leader and three of his followers. Shah was also believed to be a key liaison between the Pakistani Taliban and the local (Afghanistan, Pakistan. India) branch of ISIL.
August 23, 2016: In northeast India (Assam) police arrested four Bangladeshi men and accused them of planning Islamic terrorist attacks in India. This comes after several attempts, some of them apparently successful, of Islamic terrorists moving to and from Bangladesh using the long, thinly populated, borders in northeastern India. These foreigners are often noted by the local Indians (who are generally hostile to Islamic terrorism) and captured. Across the border in Bangladesh Islamic terrorist violence, while much lower than in Pakistan, has doubled in 2016 (compared to 2015) and the popular and police response there have been energetic. Six were Islamic terrorists were recently arrested and revealed that many local Islamic terrorists were leaving the country, at least until the counter-terrorism effort died down.
August 22, 2016: In eastern Pakistan (Karachi) soldiers were sent to shut down the MQM (one of the largest political parties in the country and a major participant in the violence in Karachi). This was caused by a speech by MQM leader Altaf Hussain, in which he accused the Pakistani military of being the cause of most problems in Pakistan as well as a supporters of Islamic terrorism. Altaf Hussain has long been hostile to the military and has been operating from Britain since 1991 to avoid attack by enemies (mainly the military and Islamic terrorists) inside Pakistan. As a result of the latest military offensive senior MQM officials in Pakistan rebelled against Altaf Hussain and declared him replaced. This was an attempt to stop the military from tearing MQM apart. Altaf Hussain also apologized to the military, which insists that all Pakistanis, at least in public, go along with the fiction that the military is not corrupt, does not support Islamic terrorism and exists to prevent India from destroying Pakistan. Those who refuse to go along, especially if they are journalists or prominent politicians, often end up dead or in exile. The Pakistani generals are willing to make deals with the MQM and they have done so before. While security forces continue shutting down MQM in Karachi negotiations appear to be underway as well.
Security forces harassment of MQM have been going on for years and the army is accused of illegally kidnapping and killing MQM members. Since 2013 more than 1,500 MQM activists have been arrested and about 200 have been murdered by pro-government forces. In early 2015 troops raided the headquarters of MQM in Karachi arresting 20 people and seizing illegal weapons. The MQM said the raid was unlawful and the seized weapons were legal (for protection against Islamic terrorist attack). The army and political rivals are angry at MQM for using street violence and general strikes (enforced with the threat of violence) to control much of Karachi. MQM got away with this between 1999 and 2008 because it was a major supporter of military dictator Pervez Musharraf. The current elected government wants to deal with the various types of misbehavior Musharraf tolerated in an effort to retain power and MQM is high on the list. Even with Musharraf gone MQM remains a major power in Sindh province (where it controls 41 percent of the seats in the provincial legislature). In the national parliament MQM controls nine percent of the seats. But in Karachi most residents see MQM as a bunch of gangsters pretending to be politicians. Despite the Musharraf connection the MQM is secular and has long been hostile to the army, particularly the pro-Islamic terrorist factions in the army and ISI. MQM was founded in the 1980s to protect the Muhajir (people who fled to Pakistan after India and Pakistan were created in 1947) from discrimination. Muhajir are nearly eight percent of the population of Pakistan. MQM activists came to be known as rough operators who would use violence to get their way and often threatened to kill anyone who opposed them. Then again that sort of thing is not rare in Pakistan where politics is widely accepted as a blood sport. The government considers MQM a major source of all the violence in Karachi and the locals agree. The problem here is that the MQM is also opposed to Islamic radicalism while the army is not. The army will even tolerate Islamic terrorists as long as they direct their attacks outside of the country, preferably in Afghanistan and India. The MQM situation shows how the corruption problem is the underlying cause of all the problems in Pakistan. Corruption is also the most difficult problem to fix.
In southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan) the Chamman border crossing was closed by the Pakistanis because Afghanistan refused to punish civilians who had demonstrated against Pakistan at Chamman on the 19th and burned a Pakistani flag. Chamman is the second most active border crossing with Afghanistan. The most active crossing is Torkham Gate in northwest Pakistan. That one was closed several times this year because of ongoing border disputes between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The violence has been going on for years and is more about unresolved border disputes than anything else. Torkham is the main border crossing with Pakistan because on the Pakistani side is the Khyber Pass which has long been the easiest way to get from northern Afghanistan to the lowlands (most of Pakistan and all of India) beyond. Most of the Afghan-Pakistani border is still called the “Durand Line.” This was an impromptu, pre-independence invention of British colonial authorities and was always considered temporary (or at least negotiable) by locals. This was mainly because the line often went right through Pushtun tribal territories. However, the Afghans are more inclined to accept the Durand Line, and fight to maintain it. Thus recent Pakistani efforts to build more fences and other structures on their side of the border as an attempt to make the Durand line permanent. Afghans who use the border are also angry at a new Pakistani visa policy, which requires regular users of the crossings to get a visa. Officially this is a security measure, but given the rampant corruption in Pakistan Afghans see this as another opportunity for Pakistani border officials to demand bribes.
August 21, 2016: In northwest India (Kashmir) troops intercepted and killed three Islamic terrorists trying to sneak across the border. Pakistan supported Islamic terrorists keep trying (and increasingly failing) to cross the heavily guarded border and maintain Islamic terrorist activity in Kashmir. India continues pressuring Pakistan to shut down the Pakistan based Islamic terror groups that specialize in attacking India. Pakistan unofficially agrees the camps are there but the Pakistani military controls them and no elected Pakistani government has get been able to overrule the military on anything the military sees as essential. This includes supporting Islamic terror groups that are willing to carry out attacks inside India.
August 19, 2016: India declared a new military airfield near the Chinese border in northeast (Arunachal Pradesh) operational. China claims that it owns Arunachal Pradesh and is willing to negotiate an Indian surrender of this territory. India is not interested in that sort of negotiation and since 2014 has been building roads and over fifty new military bases in the sparsely populated area next to Tibet. The new airbase is one of five new ones in the area and can handle transports and jet fighters like the Su-30MKI.
In the northeast on the Burmese border, another battle between Indian commandoes and Indian tribal rebels took place at about 3 AM. The shooting lasted several hours and it was unclear to locals exactly where the fighting was. The Indian rebels claim that the clash took place on the Burmese side of the border and led to the deaths of at least five Indian commandos. At first the Indian Army insisted that none of its troops were in Burma but soon relented and admitted that this was another raid on an Indian rebel group that has set up a base in Burma.
August 14, 2016: In Indian Kashmir (Poonch) Pakistani troops opened fire across the border and Indian troops responded. The next day Pakistan accused India of starting it. The same thing happened in April when the firing lasted about two days and then commanders from both countries met and agreed to resume the 2003 ceasefire. Until April it had been over six months since the last such incident. There were 405 incidents like this in 2015. In December 2015 Indian and Pakistani military leaders met on the Kashmir border to reaffirm efforts to reduce violence on the LOC (Line of Control) in Kashmir. Such incidents still occur despite a 20o3 ceasefire. The current LOC negotiations have kept things pretty quiet on the LOC since a September 2015 meeting in which India threatened a major military response to almost daily Pakistani attacks. Apparently convinced (especially by the Indian politicians and media calling for war) this was serious the Pakistanis reduced the border violence although not the efforts to get Islamic terrorists across the LOC and into Kashmir. There were nearly a hundred of those in 2015.
August 11, 2016: In southwest Pakistan (Quetta) an Islamic terrorist suicide bomber tried to kill a judge. The attack failed but 14 others (security personnel and civilians) were wounded. Lawyers in Pakistan have been under increasing attack by Islamic terrorists and since 2004 these attacks have left 114 lawyers and several prominent judges dead. Much of this violence against lawyers and judges is to get imprisoned Islamic terrorists freed or to prevent Islamic terrorists from being convicted and executed. Tribal separatists, the Pakistani military and local gangsters also make similar threats to journalists, lawyers and judges in Baluchistan.
August 9, 2016:
In Iran Afghan and Iranian officials signed the agreements which enable foreign cargo delivered to the port of Chabahar (in southeastern Iran) to enter Afghanistan without any additional tax problems or other restrictions. Iran and India are building the 1,300 kilometer 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 can now legally become a major investor. This project obviously helps Afghanistan but also hurts Pakistan, which currently monopolizes the movement of most Afghan imports and exports. This new agreement means a lot for India which is spending over $100 million to extend an Afghan highway to the Iranian border where the new rail link from Chabahar will end. This link will make possible Indian trade with Afghanistan, something long blocked by Pakistan. The port of Chabahar and its links to Afghanistan are to be operational by the end of the decade.
August 8, 2016: In southwest Pakistan (Quetta) Islamic terrorists shot dead the head of the Baluchistan Bar Association. Later in the day, as over 200 judges and lawyers gathered near a hospital to mourn the death of their colleague a suicide bomber attacked killing 74 people and wounding several dozen. Most of the victims were judges and lawyers.