Pakistan continues to hold off on sending in the army in to deal with the Pakistani Taliban threat. The remains the case even though government has recently experienced another Taliban ceasefire that failed. Pakistan continues to ignore the fact that the Taliban have always broken ceasefires and peace agreements. In the seven years of Taliban insurrection the Islamic terrorists have only agreed to ceasefires or peace deals when faced with major military operations. There are currently nearly 200,000 troops in the Pakistani tribal territories, and over 40,000 surrounding North Waziristan. This is an area of 4,700 square kilometers, with 365,000 people that is the only sanctuary Islamic terrorist groups like the Taliban and Haqqani Network have in the tribal territories.
North Waziristan has been surrounded since late 2009, but until recently Pakistani generals refused to go in and shut down this terrorist refuge. It is believed that the generals are not confident they can win, that many of their troops will quickly lose any enthusiasm for fighting if they suffer heavy casualties fighting the Taliban. This assessment is based on reports from units that have taken heavy losses from terrorist attacks. While some of the troops responded with calls for payback, many appeared discouraged and unenthusiastic about facing the Islamic terrorists again. Naturally the Taliban are confident of their ability to win because they are on a Mission From God. That has not prevented the Taliban from taking heavy casualties, especially from Pakistani and American air strikes. The Pakistanis are using F-16s and smart bombs since 2010 but, until this year, sparingly. The Taliban have come to fear the smart bombs because the Pakistani pilots have targeting pods and have learned how to find and hit targets with great accuracy. The American UAV missile attacks get more publicity and these have actually done more damage to the Islamic terrorists in Pakistan because the U.S. is not restrained by decades old agreements with the Pakistani military to support some terrorist groups in Pakistan. However there have been no American UAV missile attacks in Pakistan for three months (since late December).
Pakistani politicians have been under growing pressure from the West, especially the United States to do something about the continued terror attacks by what the Pakistanis call "bad Taliban". These are mostly Pakistani Taliban who wants to establish a religious dictatorship in Pakistan and some of them have been increasingly active attacking other Pakistanis. This has caused a shift in public opinion against the Taliban, although there is still a lot of support for Islamic terrorists who only attack India, Afghanistan or Western nations. That support is strongest within the military, even though Pakistan admits that the Islamic terrorists have killed over 5,000 Pakistani soldiers and police since September 11, 2001, along with over 50,000 Pakistani civilians.
The Afghan Taliban, who wants to establish a similar religious dictatorship in Afghanistan are considered "good Taliban" along with the minority of Pakistani Taliban who don't want to overthrow their government. In the last four years, the Pakistani Taliban have also caused over a thousand of casualties among pro-government tribesmen throughout the tribal territories. It's no secret that the army hires tribesmen and puts them in dangerous situations to minimize army casualties. The army cannot afford to lose the support of the loyal tribes up there. All this has put pressure on the army to eliminate the refuge the killers can flee to in North Waziristan. Several times, because of the demands of Pakistani and American politicians, the Pakistani generals have said they would consider advancing into North Waziristan. But it hasn't happened yet. Despite that the generals have, for weeks now, openly talked about actually going in on the ground and eliminating the North Waziristan Islamic terrorist sanctuary. The Pakistani military has explicitly declared that it would not attack its longtime and loyal terrorist allies (especially Haqqani Network) in North Waziristan or anywhere else in the tribal territories or any other terrorists who do not attack targets inside Pakistan. The air force has only been bombing Islamic terrorists groups that are responsible for openly making terrorist attacks inside Pakistan. But the fact remains that the army does not appear ready to actually invade North Waziristan. The basic problem here is that the Taliban is a coalition where the factions cooperate when each feels like it and the more extreme groups oppose any talks or peace deals with the government. In short, the head of the Pakistani Taliban does not control an entire organization in the same way the commander of an army does.
On the positive side the decades of Pakistani support for Islamic conservatism has enabled it to maintain very good relations with Saudi Arabia. This was recently manifested in the form of a $1.5 billion loan to Pakistan with another $1.5 billion on the way. The Saudis have also invested billions in setting up and supporting many of the 22,000 religious schools in Pakistan. The Saudis have also agreed to send back to Pakistan most of the 4,000 Pakistanis jailed in Saudi Arabia, mostly for being in the country illegally. There are over 1.5 million Pakistanis working in Saudi Arabia and these Pakistanis send home over $4 billion a year. There are almost as many Pakistanis in other Gulf States. The Saudis want to remain tight with Pakistan because Pakistan is the only Islamic state with nukes. Pakistan is also a corrupt, inefficient and frequently bankrupt country but, then, no one is perfect. In light of that a growing number of Saudis are criticizing the aid to Pakistan because the Pakistani leadership is notoriously corrupt and wasteful with foreign aid no matter where it comes from.
Pakistani F-16s have been bombing North Waziristan more frequently in the last month and the most frequent targets have been foreign Islamic terrorists. This is, in part, a sop to the United States and the countries where many of these terrorists are from (especially Chinese and Central Asian ones). Pakistani intelligence has found that many of these foreign terrorists have simply moved across the border to Afghanistan, where, if they keep their heads down, they will be facing fewer smart bombs. Pakistan believes that recent air attacks have killed nearly 200 foreign terrorists this year, most of them from Central Asia (especially Uzbekistan and Tajikistan).
Evidence continues to come out of Pakistan about how the government helped hide Osama bin Laden for nearly a decade. All evidence points to ISI (Pakistani CIA/Military Intelligence) and efforts by ISI to keep the bin Laden sanctuary effort secret even within ISI. The Pakistanis knew that the Americans had been gathering more and more evidence of ISI support for Islamic terrorism and at some point the expanding U.S. intel effort inside Pakistan might connect all the dots and cause a diplomatic/media/political crises by exposing the support for bin Laden. On a practical level this could lead to cuts in the American military aid, which has increased Pakistani military spending substantially in the last decade and made a real difference. No just in terms of new equipment and better treatment of the troops, also making a lot of senior officers rich because there was more to steal. If the proof of ISI complicity has to emerge this is how the Pakistanis prefer it because the gradual emergence of proof has not caused the feared uproar and backlash, just more people nodding their heads in acknowledgement of what everyone long knew but could not prove. What it also shows is how petty, corrupt, deceptive and untrustworthy the Pakistani military has been. While many military personnel secretly (quite a few, not so secretly) support Islamic terrorism, they also tolerate corruption and brutal treatment of civilian critics. The Pakistani generals are particularly touchy about their “honor” even though they do not, in fact, have much honor at all.
Despite making it very difficult for the United States and NATO to get their equipment into or out of Afghanistan, Pakistan is now pitching the idea that it would be mutually beneficial if the U.S. simply gave Pakistan many of the items U.S. troops used in Afghanistan to deal with the Taliban but would not need in the future and would only transport home and place in storage. In particular the Pakistanis want the MRAPs (bomb resistant armored trucks). These 7-12 ton beasts cost about a million dollars new (fully equipped) and thousands of them are in Afghanistan with not many hours on them. While some are being given to the Afghans that will still leave thousands available because the Afghans have not got the people or infrastructure to operate and maintain many of these vehicles. Pakistan can handle a thousand or more free MRAPS and Pakistani troops would appreciate the lower casualties from the growing number of roadside bombs they are encountering in the tribal territories. A lot of other American equipment (electronics, intelligence analysis software and high-tech items in general) is less likely to be given away to the Pakistanis because ISI would pass on to Islamic terrorists how this gear works and what its vulnerabilities are.
Pakistan was dragged into the ongoing mystery of missing Malaysian airliner MH370. In the last week Pakistan was accused of being a possible secret location where the missing Boeing 777 aircraft might have landed. Pakistan denied this was the case. MH370 has been missing since March 8th and it appears to be a deliberate and very professional hijacking. That is the assessment now because some of the many communications devices aboard could only be turned off from the cockpit and by someone expert in handling the aircraft systems. There was one comm device that the crew could not disable (a real-time engine monitoring system) and the pilots and hijackers may not have even known about it (because technically the device was not “working” on MH370 but actually was). This device sent a signal to satellite once an hour providing proof that the aircraft was still in the air and roughly where it was. The search for MH370 has switched to where the aircraft was when this last satellite signal was received and where the aircraft could have gone with less than an hour of fuel left. That meant either Pakistan and its neighbors or the southern Indian Ocean. The open sea areas are still being searched, but for the land areas satellite photos and diplomatic inquiries must be relied on. One of the theories about MH370 was that hijackers wanted to secretly take the aircraft to one of the many possible airfields in Central Asia, dispose of the passengers and equip the aircraft as a huge flying bomb for a spectacular suicide attack. Given Pakistani involvement in supporting so much Islamic terrorist activity over the last few decades it was not a stretch to think Pakistan based Islamic terrorists might be involved.
Indians were dismayed when a survey of arms exports over the last five years was published and showed that India had imported about three times as much as China in that period. Russia was the major supplier in both cases and both China and India have become increasingly dissatisfied with Russian equipment. This was made public recently when India announced that it was not accepting the Russian offer to install a Russian CIWS (Close in Weapons System) for protection from anti-ship missiles in the new carrier India recently received from a Russian shipyard and was instead going to seek other buyers (the U.S. or Israel). India was unhappy with how long it took the Russians to refurbish the carrier and the cost-overruns were not popular either. It’s not just about ships, there was also the recent announcement that India was upgrading 600 of its Russian T-90 tanks with new electronics (navigation systems, thermal sights and fire control computers) and air conditioning because the Russians were unable to build an air conditioning system that could handle the heat in India and prevent the electronics from being fried.
China was less troubled with these Russian shortcomings because they were able to tinker with Russian equipment and fix many of the deficiencies. What annoyed Russia was China calling these lightly modified versions of Russian gear “Chinese designs” and producing them in large quantities without paying licensing fees. Worse, China is increasingly offering these clones for export. This is also humiliating for India because not only does China have a much larger economy, although both nations have about the same population (over a billion people) and spends three times as much on defense but China has been much more successful at building modern weapons.
On the positive side China has lately become less vocal about its claims on Indian territory recently but has not abandoned these assertions. Cooling down these tensions is a big relief to India, which hears Chinese officials talk dismissively of Indian military capabilities. Indians have a bad feeling about their northern neighbor.
In response India has hired several Israeli defense firms to work with DRDO (the Indian Defense Research and Development Organization) and several state-owned defense firms to design and build an integrated anti-missile defense system. India already has a tested and proven anti-missile ABM (Anti-Ballistic Missile) but wants something like the anti-missile system Israel has developed and deployed over the last two decades. This may involve buying the latest models of Israeli Green Pine radar, which is a key element of the Israeli anti-missile defenses. If all else fails India can at least defend itself against Chinese nukes. Maybe.
March 19, 2014: Pakistan and Bahrain agreed to increased economic and military cooperation. Oil-rich Bahrain provides Pakistan with loans and investments while Pakistan provides security assistance to help Bahrain deal with years of unrest by its Shia citizens.
March 18, 2014: In the Pakistani tribal territories (North Waziristan) a terrorist leader killed himself and five members of his family while building a bomb. The explosives detonated prematurely.
March 15, 2014: In Kashmir Indian troops captured a Pakistani Islamic terrorist who had just made the difficult trek across the border from Pakistan. The captured terrorist had weapons, ammo and other supplies and documents with him. Usually these terrorists come across in small groups, usually in a remote area but rarely in cold weather. The captured terrorist is being interrogated to discover more about his journey. There’s no doubt his intentions; to kill Indians any way he can.
In southern Pakistan (Larkana) a mob of Moslems burned down a Hindu temple when someone began a rumor that the local Hindus had committed blasphemy against Islam.
In eastern India (Odisha) police found and raided a Maoist camp. The Maoists had fled but they left behind lots of weapons, ammunition, equipment and documents.
March 14, 2014: In eastern India (Bihar) police arrested four Maoist leaders.
In Pakistan 21 people died in two terrorist bombings, one in the southwest (Quetta) and the other in the northwest (Peshawar). An Islamic terrorist group, Ahrarul Hind, took responsibility. These are former members of the Pakistani Taliban who went rogue two months ago because they thought the Pakistani Taliban were not sufficiently dedicated to turning Pakistan into a religious dictatorship. There are several factions like Ahrarul Hind that are breaking the Taliban ceasefire. The Taliban refuses to discipline these factions.
In southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan) tribal separatists are increasingly joining forces with local Islamic terrorists intent on driving Shia Moslems out of the area. The separatists want a larger share of the natural gas revenue from the natural gas fields in the area.
March 13, 2014: In eastern India (Jharkhand) nine police were killed in two Maoist attacks.
March 11, 2014: In northwest India on the Pakistani border, ten Indian soldiers were killed by a snow avalanche, while four Pakistani soldiers were lost on the other side of the border. This took place near army camps that both nations maintain along the Kashmir border. Some of these camps are high up, at an altitude of 6,500 meters (20,000 feet) or higher. These are the highest military camps on the planet, the result of not precisely demarcating the the 740 kilometer long border. One 75 kilometer portion is on the 6,500-7,000 kilometer high Siachen glacier. Today’s avalanche was Siachen 144 kilometers away in similar high, snow covered terrain. There were unusually heavy snows (over 60 cm) in March and that led to more avalanches. The reason for not precisely marking that part of the border was the inaccessibility of those 75 kilometers of ice and thin air. This bizarre situation all began in the late 1970s, when Pakistan began a campaign of Islamic terror attacks on Indian Kashmir. In response, India moved more police and troops to Kashmir and in 1984 moved troops onto the Siachen glacier to block Pakistan based Islamic terrorists from sneaking into Indian Kashmir. No terrorists appear to have ever used the glacier route into Indian territory but with the high levels of terrorist violence in Indian Kashmir, desperate measures seemed reasonable. Pakistan responded to the Indian action by moving troops up onto the glacier as well. Since then, over a thousand soldiers have died, and even more injured, while serving in those harsh conditions (thin air, intense cold, constant snow and ice plus frequent inaccessibility). After September 11, 2001, the two countries began negotiating a ceasefire, and one was signed in 2003. This ended the frequent gunfire on the glacier (usually initiated by the Pakistanis), but efforts to negotiate a withdrawal of troops from the glacier have so far failed.
In eastern India (Chhattisgarh) a Maoist ambush killed 16 policemen and a civilian. In this action about a hundred Maoists attacked 48 police in vehicles.
In the Pakistani tribal territories (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) gunmen killed two policemen guarding a polio vaccination team. Since December 2012 at least 54 people associated with the polio eradication teams have been killed by Islamic terrorists, who believe the polio vaccination is really intended to poison Moslem children, despite the fact that kids who are vaccinated do not get polio. As a result of these attacks there were 91 cases of polio in Pakistan during 2013 and 58 in 2012.
March 10, 2014: In Kashmir two Islamic terrorists were killed by Indian soldiers, while one soldier was wounded.
March 6, 2014: The Pakistani government agreed to restart peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban, despite the March 3rd terror attack and the February murder of 23 captured soldiers by Islamic terrorists in the tribal territories.
March 5, 2014: In the Pakistani tribal territories (Khyber) an Islamic terrorist roadside bomb killed six soldiers.
March 4, 2014: In response to yesterday’s terrorist attack in the Pakistani capital (Islamabad) the army announced that it might invade North Waziristan this month. The March 3rd attacks saw six Islamic terrorists attack a court complex, detonating two suicide bombs and killing 11 people, including one judge. It was later discovered that the judge was accidentally killed by friendly fire. The Pakistani Taliban denied any responsibility for this attack but not that the terrorists involved were from North Waziristan. Pakistan was embarrassed by this attack because there were 47 policemen on duty at the court compound when the attack took place. One of those policemen was killed during the subsequent fighting.