India and Pakistan remain deadlocked over the use of terrorism against each other. Despite mounting evidence, Pakistan continues to deny that it supports terrorists attacking inside India and against Indians in Afghanistan. The Afghans insist that Pakistan plays a role in Islamic terrorist attacks against Indian diplomatic and aid operations in Afghanistan. That attitude is influenced by the Afghan belief (well documented) that Pakistan created the Taliban, and supported many Islamic radical organizations, in order to exercise control over Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Pakistan blames many of their woes on the United States, believing that the upsurge of Taliban activity on their side of the border is the result of American success against the Afghan Taliban, which has driven them into Pakistan, where the Pakistani forces have to deal with them. This ignores the thousands of dead, and captured, Pakistani Taliban found in Afghanistan each years. Pakistan also blames Indian spies and agents for supporting some of the unrest in Pakistan, despite a lack of evidence. The Pakistanis don't like being tagged as the bad guy in all this, but Pakistani support for Islamic terrorism over the last three decades is no secret. Pakistani attempts to back away from this pro-terrorism policy is not easy, because many Pakistanis, and government officials, are true believers, and continue to support the terrorists. So while the government may mean it when anti-terrorist policies are announced, many of the government officials tasked with carrying out the policies, are still on the side of the terrorists. Words and actions do not match. As a result of this different view of reality, peace talks between India and Pakistan are stalled. Both sides want peace, but each nation has a different view of who, or what, the enemy is.
The Pakistani security forces have disrupted terrorist operations in the tribal territories. Western intelligence agencies report that, over the last year, Internet chatter has contained more and more warnings for foreigners (wannabe terrorists) to stay away from the tribal territories, and Pakistan in general. Terrorist bases outside the tribal territories are also under assault, with major police raids each month. Terrorists can still hide in Pakistan, but they have a much harder time planning terrorist operations and running training schools for overseas terrorists. The CIA continues its missile attacks on terrorist leaders in the tribal territories, forcing these men to spend more time on their own security, than on killing others.
Over the weekend, Pakistani security forces continued to concentrate on Taliban forces in Orakzai, killing at least 30 Islamic radicals in several operations. This areas is south of the Khyber Pass. It's a small (1,800 square kilometers) area with a population of 450,000. In the last month, soldiers and police have killed nearly 400 Taliban there. This area has long hosted the Haqqani network, an Islamic radical group long supported by Pakistani intelligence. The Haqqani network mainly operated in Afghanistan, but has used its muscle in Pakistan as well. Now the security forces are finding and destroying Haqqani bases. Several thousand pro-Taliban tribesmen had fled to Orakzai, after the army offensive in South Waziristan earlier this year. They are trying to get out of the area, but the army is not making that easy. While the Islamic radicals pull off the occasional ambush or suicide bomb attack, they are regularly hammered by air strikes, raids and roadblock arrests. Most of the casualties are Taliban or al Qaeda, with the security forces taking the least (and civilians in between.) There are over a thousand casualties a week, mostly in the tribal territories, where only about 15 percent of the population lives. For most Pakistanis, this war on Islamic terrorism is something they hear about in the mass media, not something they experience.
Many Taliban have gone back to their villages, where they maintain discreet contact with each other. These Taliban continue to cause fear, and many tribal leaders, among the million or more refugees who have not yet returned, refuse to come back unless the army can provide protection from Taliban death squads. That is difficult, as villagers are reluctant to point out who the Taliban supporters are. And all it takes is half a dozen Talban, drawn from several villages, to form a death squad, and terrorize tribal elders, and many others, in the area. This is the way of the hills; threats and murder, followed by endless blood feuds and violent retribution. The Islamic radicals have added religiously inspired homicidal maniacs to an already volatile part of the world. Just what the place needs to keep it from advancing beyond the 19th century.
Outside the tribal territories, in places like the Swat Valley, feudal practices (large scale tenant farming) and economic corruption (by large landlords and industrialists) continues to generate support for Islamic radicals (who pledge to eliminate the evil old ways). The government has been slow to address these problems (which India went after, with some success, in the 1950s, thus the Indian portion of Punjab is much more prosperous and peaceful than Pakistani Punjab.)
The Pakistanis are finding that many Taliban and al Qaeda continue to flee the security forces, taking refuge in isolated villages or camps. In this way, the Terrorists hope to stay together until the army tires of the chase and withdraws. But the soldiers keep coming. The Taliban are short on weapons, ammo and men. Fewer new recruits are joining, as it is clear that the Taliban are at a big disadvantage in fighting the army. This is a marathon, an endurance contest, not a sprint. The Pakistani public keeps score by the number of terrorist attacks are still being made. The number of attacks is declining, but the terrorists insist on continuing to hit security forces and civilian targets. The terrorists have the option of going dark (halting all terror attacks) for a while, in the hope that the security forces will declare victory and withdraw from the tribal territories. But many in the government are urging a new policy in the tribal territories, one that results in more control, all the time, by the central government. This is not popular with the tribal leadership, but the military has demonstrated a remarkable ability to consistently defeat the tribesmen in battle. The ancient balance of power in the hills has changed, and the government wants to take advantage of it. But the tribes still inspire fear among the non-Pushtun lowlanders. Tribal chiefs can still intimidate army commanders, even if Tribal gunmen no longer have an edge against army troops. That's because the tribesmen have a well deserved reputation for making disputes personal. Using assassins against army commanders is a favorite tribal tactic, and the brass know it. So there are still unexpected truces with some tribes, that allow Islamic terrorists to travel the roads for a while, waved past army checkpoints, even though weapons are visible in the vehicles.
India's campaign against thousands of armed Maoist rebels in eastern India continues. Police and soldiers are finding Maoist bases, and seizing weapons and things like roadside bombs. But the ambushes and arduous patrols in the forests and hills has caused an increasing number of police to try and avoid transfer to the anti-Maoist campaign. Such corrupt behavior is nothing new, but because thousands of police are being transferred to the special anti-Maoist units, there are a lot more cowardly cops seeking to avoid duty on the eastern front. The Maoists believe they can win because of such behavior by some policemen. Long term, the Maoists believe the government will tire of chasing rebels through the rural areas, declare victory, and send the troops home. That could happen.
April 25, 2010: Across Pakistan, thousands of Shia Moslems demonstrated in protest of continued anti Shia violence. The current campaign against Sunni Islamic terrorists (Taliban and al Qaeda) has resulted in more attacks on Pakistani Shias. This includes the tribal territories. Nationwide, there has always been religious violence between Shia (20 percent of the population) and Sunni (most of the rest) radicals. There are dozens of Islamic terror groups in Pakistan, most of them Westerners never hear about, but many of them are more intent on fighting other Moslems than in going after infidels (non-Moslems).
In Indian Punjab, police caught two Islamic terrorists who had sneaked in from Pakistan last week. The gun battle left two terrorists and two policemen dead.
In Pakistani Baluchistan, police arrested 42 terrorism suspects in the city of Quetta (the largest in the province and long a base for numerous terrorist organizations.)
Someone attacked a convoy of fuel tankers, while stopped at a gas station on the road into Afghanistan. Twelve tankers were destroyed. Because the Taliban did not immediately take credit for the attack, it's believed related to tribal (faction) disputes over who the trucking companies must pay tribute to, and how much, for safe passage through tribal territory.
In the tribal territories, a suicide car bomber attacked a police van, wounding ten policemen.
April 22, 2010: In North Waziristan, Pakistan, Islamic terrorists ambushed a military convoy, killing seven soldiers.