India-Pakistan: This Has Not Been Good For Taliban Morale

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February 19, 2010:  Pakistan revealed that it had arrested Taliban leaders Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and Mullah Abdul Salam over a week ago. Baradar was the number two man in the Afghan Taliban, and the senior military commander. He was captured in Karachi. Salam was in charge of Taliban operations in northern Afghanistan, around Kunduz, and was arrested in the Peshawar (the Pakistani tribal territories.) Announcements of the captures were delayed so that intelligence information taken from the captives could be exploited. The sharp increase in such captures was the result of over a year of increased missile attacks by American UAVs on Taliban and al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan. Through most of this, Pakistan would not allow missile attacks in Baluchistan (southwest Pakistan), particularly the main city of Quetta. That's where most of the Afghan Taliban leadership had always been, and more went there, from the other tribal territories to the north, as the missile attacks increased last year. But in the last few months, the U.S. and Pakistan appeared to be expanding the attacks to Quetta. The success of the missile attacks elsewhere along the Afghan border caused a panic in Quetta, and Taliban leaders began looking for a safer place. Some went for Peshawar, the largest city in the Pushtun tribal territories, but most headed for Karachi, the largest city in Pakistan and home of over a million Pushtuns (many of them pro-Taliban, or rentable for Taliban seeking hideouts). But the mere act of so many Taliban leaders shifting to new hideouts, and those in Afghanistan no longer going to Quetta for meetings, led to more opportunities to detect, and attack, the Taliban leadership. Thus in the last few weeks, more than a dozen key Taliban and al Qaeda leaders have been detected and arrested in Karachi and Peshawar (the two favorite urban hideouts for the terrorist leadership.) You get a cluster of such captures because each one you grab yields bits of information (from documents, interrogation, laptops, cell phones) that help identify and locate others. The American have gotten very good (especially in Iraq) at rapidly exploiting this information to capture an expanding network of terrorists. This has put the Taliban and al Qaeda into panic mode, with no one sure which of their fellow leaders has been compromised, or even captured. This comes after a Pakistani invasion of South Waziristan, formerly Taliban Central in Pakistan, but now government controlled (and most of the Taliban facilities destroyed or in army hands.) Across the border, a similar operation is taking place in Helmand province, with the Taliban headquarters town of Marjah recently surrounded and taken, destroying many Taliban support facilities (ammo supplies, bomb workshops, clinics, staff housing and headquarters). Crossing the border into Baluchistan is not as simple a solution as it used to be. The damned UAVs are everywhere, with a seemingly magical ability to pick out which vehicle or house contains Taliban, and destroying the target with a missile. This has not been good for Taliban morale.

In North Waziristan, the less pro-Taliban neighbor of South Waziristan, there have been at least four American missile attacks on terrorists leaders in the last week. The Americans are also pressuring Pakistan to send troops into North Waziristan, to get Taliban leaders who fled there from South Waziristan. Pakistan is taking the long view, and trying to negotiate  the surrender of the Taliban personnel, and work out a new deal for running this part of the tribal territories. In particular, the Wazir tribes want a separate administrative deal from the pro-Taliban Mehsud tribes. The Wazir and Mehsud have long been rivals in Waziristan.

India and Pakistan are unable to get peace talks moving because of their 60 year old real estate dispute in Kashmir, and Pakistan's refusal to put a stop to Islamic terrorists basing themselves in Pakistani Kashmir, and then crossing the border (often with Pakistan Army assistance). Pakistan has a major problem with Islamic radicals, especially those dedicated to attacking India, because encouraging this sort of thing has been government, and media, policy for over three decades. In the last few years, as the Islamic terrorists sought to overthrow the government, the policy has changed. But for many Pakistanis, Islamic terrorists are still allies in the battle against India (mainly over Kashmir, a territorial dispute that goes back to the late 1940s). Governments can change their policies a lot more quickly than populations can change their attitudes and beliefs.

Maoist rebels in eastern India are fighting back against the major government offensive against them. Several attacks, in the last week, have left over fifty dead (mostly police and civilians.) The Maoists are trying to intimidate the security forces into backing off. That may work in specific areas hardest hit, but, overall, the special force of 75,000 troops and police will keep at it.

February 18, 2010: Near the Khyber Pass, in Pakistan's tribal territories, a terrorist  truck bomb went off in a mosque, killing 30 and wounding more than twice as many. Among the dead were some Islamic radicals (from Lashkar-e-Islam, a group that specializes in attacks on India), indicating the incident may have been part of one of the many feuds between Islamic radical groups. This has long been common in Pakistan, even before the Taliban and al Qaeda came along.

February 15, 2010: More fighting on the Kashmir border, as Pakistani troops fire on their Indian counterparts to help Islamic terrorists sneak across the border. At least three of the infiltrators are detected and killed.

February 13, 2010: In Pune, India, a terrorist bomb went off in a popular bakery, killing eight, including two foreign tourists. This is the first major terror attack since the November 2008 massacre in Mumbai.

 

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