India-Pakistan: North Waziristan Is Burning

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June 29, 2014: India and the U.S. recently revealed that both countries were working together to detect and disrupt international Islamic terrorist networks. This involves sharing information and coordinating activities. Both the U.S. and India have considerable intelligence resources devoted to Pakistan, which is a major source of Islamic terrorist activity in the region and internationally.

Despite continued violence from Maoists in eastern India and Islamic terrorists mainly in the northwest, India still suffers about one tenth the number of terrorist related deaths compared to Pakistan (which has a sixth as many people as India). In short, terrorist violence remains largely a Pakistani problem.

In Pakistan efforts to negotiate a peace deal with the Taliban have been abandoned as the army enters its third week of offensive operations against Islamic terrorists in the tribal territories. In mid-June the Pakistani Army began massing troops for a ground offensive and many civilians in North Waziristan fled the air attacks which began on June 10th. The military reports that over 370 Islamic terrorists, 12 soldiers and police and no civilians were killed in these North Waziristan operations so far . Several dozen terrorists have been captured and over fifty terrorist bases (often individual buildings or compounds) captured or destroyed (usually from the air). There’s no way to confirm these claims as no journalists are allowed in. A few months ago there were nearly 200,000 troops in the Pakistani tribal territories, and over 40,000 surrounding North Waziristan. Since then more of these troops were moved to North Waziristan or near it. Most of these troops are trying to prevent Islamic terrorists from escaping and helping control the large number of refugees. Only about half the troops are actually going into North Waziristan to occupy terrorist bases and generally look around.

North Waziristan is an area of 4,700 square kilometers, with 370,000 people that is the only sanctuary Islamic terrorist groups like the Taliban and Haqqani Network have in the tribal territories. About one percent of the people in North Waziristan are Islamic terrorists and while the military controls some of the larger towns, the tribes and Islamic terrorists control the countryside. Most of the people in North Waziristan have fled the air strikes and they report some civilian casualties. Afghanistan claims 65,000 have fled across the border into Khost and Paktika provinces so far. Some refugees claim that most Islamic terrorists fled the area before the air strikes began. The Pakistani military has issued several reports a week giving precise number of Islamic terrorists killed by the air strikes. There have been some Islamic terrorist attacks against troops maintaining the cordon around North Waziristan. The Islamic terrorists have taken casualties but are disrupted not destroyed.

The attack on North Waziristan initially involved F-16s, helicopter gunships and army artillery. The air force also provided pretty good aerial reconnaissance. Until the last few days ground troops did little attacking but thousands manned checkpoints on the borders of North Waziristan and mounted regular patrols along those borders. Despite this those borders still provided many opportunities for people to sneak past the troops. Most of the North Waziristan  border is with Afghanistan and that was not as tightly guarded, which made it relatively easy for Islamic terrorists to hike across the border to villages that are hospitable to Pakistani Islamic terrorists.  

The Pakistani military is now officially at war with the Taliban and some of the other Islamic terrorist groups in the tribal territories. The Taliban is also coming apart as a unified organization and the army has responded to growing popular pressure to suppress the Islamic terrorist groups in the tribal territories. There is another reason for this growing aggressiveness against Islamic terrorists in the tribal territories. Pakistan’s long (since the 1970s) support of Islamic terrorism has made it something of a pariah to all its neighbors. This is because Pakistan appears to have lost control of the Islamic terrorist groups it has provided support and sanctuary to for so long. This puts all the neighbors at greater risk of attack by Islamic terrorists who still operate out of bases in Pakistan. Those threatened include India, Afghanistan, China, Iran, the Moslem Central Asian nations and, worst of all, non-Moslem nations worldwide. Especially since September 11, 2001 Pakistan was increasingly and often publically criticized for its terrorism policy. This criticism became more intense after 2011 as many of the terrorists it supported have declared war on their host and the neighbors concluded that Pakistan has lost any control over the terrorism monster it created. Now the neighbors are discussing this situation with each other and international organizations. Pakistan has been advised to take action, or else (the neighbors will).

What is remarkable about this terrorism problem is that it is largely being manned and run by Pushtun tribal groups. The Pushtun comprise only 15 percent of the Pakistani population and are also the poorest and least educated minority. A unique feature of Pakistan is that it's 165 million people are all minorities, although the Punjabis (44 percent of the population) are the dominant one (not just in numbers, but in education and income as well). Closely allied with the Punjabis are the Sindis (14 percent), and together these two groups pretty much run the country. Karachi, the largest city in Pakistani, is in Sind, but contains residents from all over the country. Other minorities in Pakistan include Seraikis (10.5 percent, related to Punjabis), Muhajirs (7.6 percent, Moslems who came from India after 1947), Baluchis (3.6 percent) and other minorities amounting to about five percent. The Seraikis and Muhajirs live in Punjab and Sind.

For a long time most Pushtuns stayed in the tribal territories of the northwest. But since September 11, 2001 there have been a lot more Pushtun fleeing to Pakistan's largest city, Karachi. This metropolis contains 14 million people, which is eight percent of the nation's population and produces a quarter of the GDP. Islamic radicals have long been present in the city. The Taliban established a presence among the two million Pushtuns there. But a lot of the criminal gangs in Karachi are Pushtun and these are the gangs the Taliban often work closely with. Moreover there are now more murders in Karachi than in the tribal territories. Pakistani security forces are acutely aware of who is doing most of the mayhem. The security situation in Karachi is considered a major problem and the Pushtuns are seen as the leading cause of the problem.

Then there are the problems with foreign Islamic terrorists hiding out in the tribal territories. China has been pressing Pakistan to do something about Chinese Islamic terrorists (Turkic Uighurs from northwest China) based in Pakistan and Pakistan appears to be finally acting on these complaints. The recent Pakistani air strikes and ground operations in the tribal territories are concentrating on these “bad Taliban”.  Pakistan is still reluctant to admit it is the cause of so many regional Islamic terrorism problems but the neighbors are not being very understanding. China, who supplies a lot of Pakistan’s weapons and foreign investment, has told its troublesome neighbor to fix the situation or see China go from being a helpful to a hostile neighbor. The other neighbors have had a similar reaction, but given China’s place as Pakistan’s most important ally, Pakistan can no longer ignore the problem.

The Pakistani military and police have also been active throughout the country seeking out and arresting Islamic terrorists wherever they can find them. The offensive in North Waziristan was expected to send a lot of Islamic terrorists fleeing for sanctuary elsewhere. The obvious destination is Karachi but there are several other major cities that can hide well connected or financed fugitives.

The U.S. has resumed UAV missile strikes against Islamic terrorists in Pakistan (North Waziristan) this month. These are the first such attack this year and the last one took place in December 2013, killing three. The long halt was apparently at the request of the Pakistani government. However, the Pakistani government did announce that the recent American UAV strikes were not intentionally part of the current Pakistani offensive against North Waziristan. This is part of a recent effort by American and Pakistani military commanders to work out their differences. The Pakistani generals feel threatened by the growing Islamic terrorist violence and the fact that the Pakistani military is getting blamed (especially inside Pakistan) for it.

June 28, 2014: India protested new Chinese maps showing a major portion of India as being within China’s borders. This is just another escalation in a long-running border dispute over who owns Arunachal Pradesh.  The Chinese claims have been on the books for decades but in the last decade China has become more vocal about it. That's one reason India has been rapidly increasing its defense spending. But since both nations have nuclear weapons, a major war over Arunachal Pradesh is unlikely. But India fears that China might try to carry out a lightning campaign (a few days, or a week), and then offer peace terms (with China keeping all or part of Arunachal Pradesh). Since neither country would be willing to start a full scale nuclear war over Arunachal Pradesh (a rural area with a population of about a million people, spread among 84,000 square kilometers of mountains and valleys), the "grab and parley" strategy has to be taken seriously, if only because China used it fifty years ago to grab some Indian territory on the Tibet border. In the meantime, China keeps finding ways to annoy India over this issue.

 June 27, 2014: In Kashmir Pakistani troops violated the 2003 ceasefire agreement for the first time in five weeks by firing on Indian troops across the LOC (Line of Control) with rifles and machine-guns. Indians responded with similar type weapons and it appears there were no casualties on either side. The official Pakistani Army position is that India starts these incidents by firing first but there is little evidence of that and even the Pakistani government is at a loss as to why their military continues to allow these incidents to happen. The only reasonable explanation anyone can come up with is the attacks are used to distract Indian border guards to assist Islamic terrorists trying to cross the LOC. Yet many of these Pakistani attacks seem to occur when there is no such crossing attempt. That may be a tactic to confuse the Indian border forces by attacking randomly and not just when the firing is in support of Islamic terrorists. In any event the Pakistani military always denies everything. When Indian and Pakistani diplomats or political leaders meet to discuss the issue both agree that the attacks are made from Pakistan but Pakistani civilian leaders admit that they cannot really control everything their military does.

June 26, 2014: The Pakistani military announced the start of ground operations in North Waziristan. Military officials insisted that all Islamic terrorists in North Waziristan were being attacked and denied that the army was secretly supporting any Islamic terrorist groups. This is disingenuous as the ISI (the Pakistani CIA, which is controlled by the army) handles “supported” Islamic terrorist groups.

In northwest Pakistan (Khyber) four Islamic terrorists and three soldiers died when an army checkpoint was attacked. The Islamic terrorists also attacked the army reinforcements, wounding two more soldiers before fleeing the area.

June 25, 2014: Two major airlines halted flights to Peshawar, the largest city in the tribal territories, after gunfire damaged an aircraft and killed one passenger as a Pakistan International Airlines airliner landed there yesterday. Ten bullets hit the aircraft and one bullet passed through a window, killing a passenger and wounding two flight attendants. This occurred as the aircraft was about 90 meters (300 feet) above the ground. The bullets appear to have come from an AK-47. This was the first Islamic terrorist attack on airliners in Pakistan that killed anyone. Islamic terrorists had threatened to attack airliners in retaliation for the Pakistani offensive against North Waziristan (which was in response to a June 8 Islamic terrorist attack on a major airport that was in turn retaliation for military attacks on Islamic terrorists and so on). After the attack on the airliner at Peshawar police arrested several hundred potential suspects (apparently the “usual suspects”).

In eastern India ( Bihar) Maoists are believed responsible for sabotaging railroad tracks and causing a derailment that killed four people. Police also found and disabled three bombs in a nearby town.

June 22, 2014: In northwestern India (Kashmir) soldiers raided an Islamic terrorist hideout and seized 60 kg (123 pounds) of explosives and over a hundred grenades, RPG rockets and detonators. Elsewhere in Kashmir soldiers encountered and killed two Islamic terrorists, including a top commander. That makes 40 Islamic terrorists killed in Kashmir so far this year. That’s up from ten killed during the same period in 2013. Indian intelligence believes there are currently 300-400 Islamic terrorists operating in Kashmir, most of them from Pakistan.

June 21, 2014: Pakistan ordered telecommunications companies to block the use of SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) cards from Afghanistan. In most parts of the world you can move your cell phone service from one phone to another by simply removing the small (25x14mm) SIM "card" from one phone and inserting it in another. SIM cards can also be bought just for the minutes stored on them. Police have long noted that terrorist bombs are often set off using a cell phone with an anonymous SIM card. It's not uncommon to raid a terrorist hideout and find hundreds of anonymous SIM cards and Pakistan believes that Islamic terrorists are increasingly using SIM cards from Afghanistan to get around government efforts to control illegal use of SIM cards bought in Pakistan. This effort has been going on for a while. In 2013 Pakistan announced that there were four million unidentified (many presumed illegal) SIM cards in use for cell phones nationwide. Since the owner of these SIM cards is not known, such unidentified SIM cards can be used by outlaws avoiding detection. The government could order all these SIMs disabled but that would cause an uproar because most of them are being used by ordinary citizens rather than gangsters or terrorists.  In response to this situation, the government ordered SIM card vendors to only deliver new SIM cards via mail rather than by hand. This was unworkable because people often need a new SIM card immediately because the existing one is now useless and they want their cell phone operational right away. People are supposed to carry ID with them, but fake ID is easily available, at least to criminals and terrorists.  Since 2008, Pakistan has tried, without success, to block the anonymous use of cell phones. This usually involves unidentified SIM cards but now there are phones modified to operate without the mandatory IMEI (International Mobile Station Equipment Identity) numbers. Such phones tell the phone companies nothing about the phone.

June 18, 2014: Two separate American UAV missile strikes against Islamic terrorists in Pakistan (North Waziristan) left six dead.

In northwestern India (Kashmir) soldiers raided an Islamic terrorist hideout, killing three terrorists while suffering one soldier wounded.

June 17, 2014: The Pakistani president called his Afghan counterpart and asked for cooperation with the recent Pakistani offensive into the long-time Islamic terrorist sanctuary of North Waziristan. The Afghans had asked for this offensive for a long time and the Pakistanis want the Afghans to put more troops on the border North Waziristan shares with Afghanistan to catch or kill any Islamic terrorists fleeing into Afghanistan. Both countries later (a week later) announced that some forms of cooperation in this area had been agreed to.

In eastern India (Jharkhand) eleven Maoist rebels were captured after a gun battle.

June 16, 2014: In northwest Pakistan ( North Waziristan) a roadside bomb killed six soldiers.

The Afghan Taliban are having discipline problems as more and more members and mid-level commanders lose their enthusiasm for the job. To inspire more dedication the Taliban have apparently turned loose a group of Pakistani Islamic terrorist “enforcers” who are wandering around eastern Afghanistan executing (via videotaped hangings) Taliban accused of behaving badly. Some of the recent victims were accused of not doing enough to disrupt the presidential elections.

June 15, 2014: Pakistan announced a major military offensive against Islamic terrorists in North Waziristan. The air force says its bombers had killed 105 Islamic terrorists and no civilians in several attacks on known Islamic terrorist locations during the first day of the operation. For at least a week all the attacks will be via bombers, helicopter gunships and artillery. At the very least the military hopes to disrupt Islamic terrorist plans for more attacks in Pakistan (outside the tribal territories.) That is how most Pakistanis will measure the success of the offensive. In reality most Islamic terrorists saw this coming and fled. This offensive temporarily disrupts terror attacks and forces the Islamic terrorists to set up camps elsewhere. Some will now operate out of Afghanistan but many others have already moved operations to major cities, like Karachi, that have large Pushtun minorities and Pushtun neighborhoods terrorists can hide out in.

June 12, 2014: In Sindh Province a court ordered the government to lift the overseas travel ban on a former military dictator Pervez Musharraf who was indicted in April for treason and more. The military protested and their threats don’t work as well as they used to because many of the troops and junior officers are less likely to obey orders that clearly break the law. But the military is still the most powerful institution in the country, despite that fact that political its strength is rapidly declining. Nevertheless it is believed that the government finally backed down. By allowing Musharraf to leave the country the government will probably never be able to complete the prosecution of the cases against him. However before Musharraf could leave the country a higher court countermanded the Sindh ruling.

Near the Pakistani border in Kashmir two roadside bomb attacks killed one Indian soldiers and wounded five others. Islamic terrorists were believed responsible for these bombs.

 

 

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