India-Pakistan: Man On The Run

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June 16, 2009: In Pakistan, al Qaeda is taking credit for car bomb attacks in the tribal territories, and the rest of Pakistan. This has made these foreign terrorists even more unpopular. Most of the terror attacks in the tribal territories are in the largest city, Peshawar. Here, many of the people are not tribal, but from the lowlands, and thus more desirable targets for tribal terrorists. The Taliban terror attacks are more sophisticated than in the past, showing the training Taliban terrorists have received from foreign experts (mainly al Qaeda). But there are only a few of these more professional Taliban terrorist cells, and they can only pull off a few attacks at a time, and mostly in the tribal territories. The Taliban are trying to disrupt the military operations in the tribal territories, but the terror attacks are backfiring. The attacks are not extensive or severe enough to have any effect on military operations, and are turning many tribesmen against the Taliban.

Meanwhile, the army is fighting in the Swat valley, nearby Dir, and Waziristan to the south. The army is closing in on the main Taliban stronghold in Waziristan, while police in major cities are having more success detecting and disrupting terrorist attacks.

The Pakistani army is now moving into South Waziristan, where the most pro-Taliban tribesmen come from.  The army and the government have made it clear that they intend to capture or kill Taliban tribal leader Baitullah Mehsud. Meanwhile, other leaders of the Mehsud tribe are trying to remove pro-Taliban tribesmen from Mehsud territory. The anti-Taliban Mehsud tribal leaders see the terrorist activity as no good for the tribe as a whole, and they appear to have the backing of most Mehsud people. Then there is the $5 million reward offered by the U.S. for anyone who can bring Baitullah Mehsud in, dead or alive.

The seven week campaign in the tribal territories has left over 1,500 Taliban fighters dead. While the tribesmen can raid and ambush the advancing troops, they cannot stop the army. The military has hundreds of helicopters and warplanes overhead, and armored vehicles to dominate the roads, and artillery to hit the compounds of Taliban leaders, or areas where armed tribesmen are spotted concentrating. It's not a fair fight, and most tribesmen are now convinced of this, and less enthusiastic about invading the lowlands, or fighting the army.

The U.S. has agreed to provide a $1.5 billion aid package for the Pakistani tribal territories. Some 40 percent will go to Baluchistan, while the rest will go to the Pushtun tribes to the north. This is expected to help reduce the terrorist activity, in Baluchistan, by tribal separatists intent on getting a larger share of the revenues from gas exported from the province. This all depends on how much of the aid actually reaches the tribes. Government corruption often sees large amounts of  aid disappear before reaching the intended recipients.

June 13, 2009: Pakistani warplanes bombed chief Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud's compound in Waziristan, in response to popular anger at continued Taliban terror attacks on civilians religious leaders.

June 12, 2009: In Lahore, Pakistan, a prominent anti-Taliban cleric was killed by a suicide bomb attack.

June 11, 2009: The CIA believes that Osama bin Laden is still hiding in the Pakistani tribal territories, and that the Pakistani military operations there will greatly increase the chances that bin Laden will be killed or captured. Bin Laden would also be under a lot of pressure to leave the country, which would make him more vulnerable to detection. There aren't too many places bin Laden could flee to. Somalia and Yemen are the big al Qaeda hideouts these days, and both are much more vulnerable than the Pakistani tribal territories have been.

June 10, 2009:  Pakistani forces have killed 1,370 Taliban fighters in the tribal territories in the last six weeks. The army has lost less than a tenth as many troops. Civilian losses are unknown, although most civilians have fled the area, and any adult males killed, with weapons found nearby, are considered to be Taliban.

 

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