India-Pakistan: In Your Face


April 4, 2010: In Pakistan's Orakzai area, fighting continued, with 21 Taliban killed, 61 wounded and eight captured. That makes about 300 Taliban losses in the last week. The army are using helicopters and F-16s (equipped with smart bombs) against the Islamic militants, which gives the troops an edge. If the large groups of Taliban or al Qaeda fighters disperse, they risk being caught one-by-one. These Taliban had fled from the army offensive in South Waziristan earlier this year. Taking refuge in isolated villages or camps, the Taliban hoped to stay together until the army withdrew. But the army has been scouring the tribal territories (with the help of American UAVs, satellites and recon aircraft), and now, with the arrival of Spring, the army is going after them. There are about 40,000 troops in North Waziristan (or ready to enter the area). This operation is being carried out more quietly than last year's battle in South Waziristan, because most of the tribes in North Waziristan have made deals with the government to stay out of the fight. So the troops do not have to fight their way through the entire area. However, the al Qaeda senior leadership are believed to be in the area, heavily guarded and ready to fight to the death. But so far, only small groups of Taliban and al Qaeda have been encountered by advance army scouts. The main offensive is expected to start in a month or so.

While the army leadership is still not enthusiastic about making war on fellow Pakistanis (even hostile Pushtun tribesmen), the increasing number of terror attacks, on fellow Pakistanis, launched from the tribal territories, gives the generals no choice. Moreover, the army is heartened by the American UAV campaign against the Islamic terrorist leadership, which has weakened the terrorists noticeably. Since civilian government returned two years ago, the U.S. UAVs have been allowed to go after all the terrorist leaders they could find. The previous military dictatorship clung to the idea that they could somehow negotiate with the Islamic radical groups they had created, and limited the American UAV attacks. The civilian politicians thought otherwise.

But in one respect, even the civilian government is still stuck with the task of supporting Islamic terrorists who concentrate on attacking Indian Kashmir. However, even this bunch are wearing out their welcome. Their wider attacks into India, especially the 2008 Mumbai attack, have decreased popularity for Islamic radicalism in Pakistan. Especially now that many Pakistani civilians are being killed in the same kind of terrorist attacks. As has happened so many times (and places) before, the Islamic radicals carry with them the seeds of their own destruction. Islamic terrorism is a much more attractive tactic in the abstract. When it's in your face, it does not smell quite so sweet. The big question is, when, or if, the Pakistani government will take on the anti-Indian Islamic terrorists. That's what India, and most of the world, is demanding. Until Pakistan moves against these terrorists, they will still have a serious terrorism problem, and so will India and the rest of the world.

A growing source of terrorist support is the Pushtun community in Pakistan's largest city; Karachi. There are two million illegal residents in the city, most of them tribals, and over 100,000 of them Afghans. As police intensify their search for Islamic terrorists in Karachi, the Pushtuns there take most of the heat. This makes many of these Pushtun more inclined to aid the Taliban and al Qaeda terrorists hiding in their midst. It's a no-win situation for the police, but there are not enough security forces to do it any other way. So the Islamic terrorism will continue to survive in cities like Karachi (but not in most other large cities, which lack such a large Pushtun population.) All Pakistanis are now aware that they are the most likely victims of Islamic terrorist attacks, not the intended targets (government officials and foreigners.)

Power shortages are becoming a major political problem in Pakistan. There is a nationwide shortage amounting to about 20 percent of demand. The wealthy can buy generators and fuel to get them through the growing number of blackouts. But everyone else must endure more periods of no power, to remind them of how corrupt and inept their leaders are. The extent of corruption in the government leadership and civil service can be seen in areas, like the Swat Valley, where the Taliban have been driven out. The local population much prefer the military to run the local government, as the troops are much less corrupt and inept than the civilian bureaucrats. This culture of corruption goes all the way to the top, and even attempts by senior people to curb the bad officials runs afoul of these large number of senior thieves protecting each other.  

In Kashmir, the snow has melted and more Islamic terrorists from Pakistan are trying to sneak in. An attempt today left two terrorists dead, and troops searching the rural area for more. In the last week, two battalions of Indian troops (1,000 men) have killed or captured 28 Islamic terrorists from Pakistan along the border (Line of Control). Another 10-12 are still believed hiding in the forests, and over 300 assembled across the border in Pakistan, getting ready to attempt a crossing. The militants are headed for populated areas, where they can use civilians as human shields, and connect with the remaining Islamic radical network in Kashmir. Many of the Islamic militants are caught because local civilians turned them in. While the local Moslem population is still angry at the Hindu controlled Indian government (for rough treatment by security forces), the Islamic militants have proved to be even more of a problem. Over the last few years, the Islamic radicals have increasingly turned on Moslem civilians, trying to terrorize more of them into joining the fight, or, more frequently, not cooperating with the security forces. Before that, the Islamic militants devoted most of their efforts to attacking police, and non-Moslem civilians. But as the security forces gained the upper hand, support for the terrorists among the Moslem population declined. The Moslem civilians were fed up with decades of Islamic radical violence, and no progress in driving the Indian government out of Kashmir.

In eastern India, ten policemen were killed when their truck ran over an anti-vehicle mine. The Maoists are withdrawing before the government offensive against them. But the Maoists are still using mines and ambushes when they can, to try and discourage government forces. Rail lines are also being attacked, as well as police stations and village militias.

April 3, 2010: In Pakistan, near the Khyber pass (Orakzai), Pakistani troops clashed with a force of Taliban gunmen, killing 30 while losing six soldiers. Six of the enemy were captured and ten soldiers were wounded. In another area near the pass (Sheikhan), three policemen died in a clash with Islamic terrorists. In the largest city in the tribal territories, Peshawar, three policemen and eight Islamic terrorists died in a gun battle.

April 2, 2010: The only rail line in Indian Kashmir was shut down for a few hours by an explosion, that damaged some track. The 120 kilometer line was opened two years, and is being extended north. Islamic terrorists are suspected in this incident, which caused no injuries.




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