India-Pakistan: Unfriendly Persuasion

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April 27, 2016: Since late March the Indian armed forces have been conducting training exercise on the Pakistani border. Here India is testing its new doctrine, which abandons the old “just defend” against any Pakistani ground attack to a new doctrine of simultaneously stopping a Pakistani advance while also making a high-speed advance into Pakistan using ground troops and airborne forces. This comes after the election of a new Indian prime minister in 2014 who was less patient with Pakistani lies. Then in 2015 Pakistan admitted it had tactical nuclear weapons and had developed and manufactured these smaller (for short range missiles) warheads to discourage India from trying a surprise attack. Pakistani generals believe India can’t really do anything major because of the risk of nuclear war. But more and more Indians are turning that around and theorizing that if Indian troops crossed the LOC (Line of Control) and seized the Pakistani half of Kashmir and all the Islamic terrorist bases there they could at least get Pakistan to agree to shut down their “good” (only attack India) Islamic terror groups. The Indians believe the Pakistanis would not start a nuclear war over this and that sort of talk showing up in Indian media with increasing frequency has got Pakistani leaders concerned. Pakistan is now saying it would go sort-of nuclear with its tactical nukes and does not think India would escalate to all-out nuclear war. The current Indian border exercises are calling Pakistan’s bluff and, at the very least, showing Pakistan that India will no longer be passive in the face of Pakistani support for Islamic terrorist attacks inside India.

Meanwhile the Pakistani government requested that its military cooperate with an Indian investigation into Pakistani military and intelligence (ISI) support of Islamic terrorist groups based in Pakistan and carrying out attacks in India. The Pakistani generals refused. This Islamic terrorist support is an open secret in Pakistan but violates international anti-terrorism agreements the Pakistani government has promised to abide by. As times goes by more and more evidence piles up, especially from retired Pakistani generals who reveal what they know and did. India has a growing pile of evidence from captured Islamic terrorists as well as many dead ones, especially those killed while crossing the border from Pakistan. Satellite photos clearly show the Islamic terrorist camps in Pakistani Kashmir and anyone on the ground trying to visit these sites runs into soldiers and police blocking the way. Pakistani political leaders are willing to shut down these protected Islamic terrorist groups but the Pakistani military refuses to allow it and that is becoming an increasingly unpopular stance in Pakistan.

Afghanistan demanded that Pakistan end the sanctuary it has provided the Afghan Taliban since 2002. Afghanistan also accuses Pakistan of controlling much of what the Afghan Taliban does, including ordering terror attacks inside Afghanistan. Pakistan refused to comply with this request and continues to officially deny that Afghan Taliban leaders ever had sanctuary in Pakistan, but that was what they long said (and continue to say that) about al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden. Groups like the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network have long enjoyed sanctuary in Pakistan because they made no attacks inside Pakistan. The Pakistani military and the ISI (the Pakistani CIA) are the main supporters of the Afghan Taliban, Haqqani Network and similar groups. In Pakistan the military and ISI can defy government orders and only a major change in public opinion towards Islamic terrorism will generate enough pressure to get the military and ISI to back down. That pressure has been building since 2001 as Islamic terrorist violence inside Pakistan became more intense and more Pakistanis turned against this religious violence. But pro-Islamic terror Pakistanis are still a large, stubborn and often violent minority. Eliminating support for Islamic terrorism in Pakistan is a slow process and no one has come up with a way to speed it up.

Meanwhile the main Afghan Taliban sanctuary remains in Quetta. This is the capital of Baluchistan and just south of the Taliban homeland in Kandahar and Helmand provinces. Quetta was always off limits to the American UAVs and remains a sanctuary despite constant and increasingly angry calls from the United States and Afghanistan to shut down the sanctuaries down. Pakistan has long been dismissive of Afghan protests and either ignores them or dismisses them with denials. Pakistan considers Afghanistan a client state. The Afghans are considered a collection of fractious tribes pretending to be a nation. With no access to the sea, most Afghan road connections to ports are with Pakistan. The Afghans resent this, especially since for thousands of years invasions of northern India (which, historically, lowland Pakistan was a part) came out of Afghanistan where many Pushtun tribesmen would join the invaders. Pakistan and India are well aware of this, and still consider the Pushtuns a bunch of bloodthirsty savages from the mountains. Afghanistan has only been around for a few centuries and Pakistan was carved out of British India in 1947. Before that it was a collection of feudal states and tribal territories. When you get right down to it, Pakistan's big problem is that it contains two-thirds of the Pushtun people (who are 15 percent of Pakistan's population) while Afghanistan contains the other third (who are 40 percent of Afghanistan's population.) "Pushtunstan" is a nation of 30-40 million Pushtuns caught between Pakistan (still over 150 million people without the Pushtuns) and northern Afghanistan (with about 18 million non-Pushtuns) Without Pushtuns, Afghanistan would become yet another Central Asian country with a small population (neighboring Tajikistan has 7.7 million and Uzbekistan has 30 million). But Pushtunstan is never going to happen because the Pushtuns have long been divided by tribal politics and cultural differences. When the Pushtun aren't fighting outsiders, they fight each other. The violent and fractious Pushtuns are a core problem in the region, and have been for centuries. There is no easy solution to this.

Pakistani politicians in Punjab are demanding that the military move a lot more of its counter-terrorism efforts from Waziristan to Punjab, where it is believed that a growing number of Islamic terror attacks are carried out by groups based in Punjab. Over 80 percent of Pakistanis live in Sindh and Punjab provinces but until recently most of the terrorist violence tended to be in the northwest tribal territories. Since the March 27 bombing in Lahore (capital of Punjab province) the military has moved some counter-terrorism operations to Punjab and, in effect, expanded the North Waziristan offensive to Punjab because, since the North Waziristan offensive began in mid-2014 it was obvious that some Islamic terrorist groups had moved to other parts of Pakistan and that Punjab (especially its capital of Lahore) and the port of Karachi (to the south in Sindh province) were favorite destinations. The military refuses to officially recognize this and continues to blame India for the upsurge in Punjab terrorist violence. There has never been much evidence of that and that was shown once more because the recent Lahore attack triggered nation-wide efforts to find and arrest those responsible. That quickly led to the arrest of over 700 suspects and the death of eleven Islamic terrorists who fired back when facing arrest. No evidence of Indian involvement was found but there was plenty of evidence showing Islamic terrorist groups pushed out of North Waziristan into Punjab.

The recent intense police activity in Punjab had several unexpected side effects. One was the destruction of the notorious Choto gang that has dominated criminal activity in southwest Punjab since 2007. Choto was founded by a former police informer and minor criminal (Ghulam Rasool) who managed to unite several existing gangs into a larger, and more successful operation. Choto specialized in kidnapping for ransom and used a series of seemingly invulnerable hide outs and other gangs interested in “buying” valuable captives to prosper and avoid arrest. By early 2016 local police had carried out seven major operations against the gang and all failed, with the loss of 30 dead police and many more wounded. Some gangsters were killed or captured but the gang was organized to survive this sort of thing and continued to operate. As part of the current effort to suppress organized criminal activity (Islamic terrorist or otherwise) the Punjab police launched another major assault on Choto. By April 13th this effort had failed, with seven policemen dead and 27 help captive by Choto. At this point the army was called in, and over a thousand troops, armed with helicopters and artillery, went after Choto and shut it down. By April 20th the captured policemen were rescued and the gang leader arrested. Now troops and police are searching for the remaining gang members. The army resists taking part in operations like this but such operations have a lot of popular support.

ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) has been trying to establish a presence in Pakistan for over a year but so far has not been able to create a group of that can survive constant police scrutiny. Despite that police continue to find ISIL supporters in universities and religious schools trying to recruit young men to join the homicidal, and often suicidal, Islamic terrorist organization. In early 2105 ISIL was attracting many of the most fanatic Islamic terrorists in Pakistan and Afghanistan and at its peak in 2015 was believed to have as many as 3,000 members, most of them in Afghanistan. ISIL has not get been able to get an operational group going in Pakistan in part because the most desired candidates (veteran Islamic terrorists from other organizations) are mostly in Afghanistan. These men are attracted to the ISIL view of the world. For example ISIL insists that the Pakistani military controls the Afghan Taliban as well as Islamic terrorist groups based in Pakistan that mainly operate inside India. These accusations are nothing new but they are the reason ISIL considers Pakistan un-Islamic and worthy of some lethal ISIL retribution. To underscore that ISIL has been carrying out suicide bomber attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan. So far there have been few such attacks because ISIL is under attack by Afghan and Pakistani security forces as well as rival Islamic terrorist groups. Afghanistan, Pakistan and India are actually cooperating when it comes to ISIL, which is also hated and hunted by other Islamic terrorist groups.

The Islamic terrorist groups still operating in Pakistan are the ones that agree to not launch attacks inside Pakistan. These groups are zealous (and ruthless) in preventing any of their members from going rogue (as in joining ISIL) and risking the sanctuary the group enjoys. For most of 2015 ISIL tried to establish a base area in eastern Afghanistan (mainly Nangarhar Province) but that led to constant skirmishing with Pakistani Taliban hiding out there. The local tribes are also largely hostile to ISIL and all this has provided better intel for the security forces on what ISIL is up to and exactly where they are. Some of the tribes used their own militias to fight ISIL but more often just helped villages set up defenses to keep ISIL out. This cooperation (and information) led to more effective and frequent American air strikes and raids by Afghan troops and American commandos and hundreds of ISIL men have been killed and many more wounded. Many of the wounded desert and there are fewer new volunteers. ISIL is hanging on but is now driven from all the 22 villages they occupied at the start of the year. ISIL is not dead in Afghanistan but it isn’t growing much either. There may still be a thousand or more living rough up in the hills and they can survive there until the cold weather returns. These remaining ISIL get little sympathy from the locals, many of whom have bitter stories to tell of harsh ISIL rule that included beheadings of most who resisted and imposition of strict lifestyle rules. This included closing all secular schools as well as religious schools and mosques that did not enthusiastically support ISIL. These lurid (and often true) stories are circulating throughout eastern Afghanistan making the region a no-go zone for ISIL This situation apparently led to ISIL leaders urging their Pakistani supporters to try to establish a functional (not just “supportive”) organization in Pakistan.

April 25, 2016: In Bangladesh Islamic terrorist assassins killed two more “enemies of Islam”. The latest victims were killed because the supported freedom from persecution for homosexuals. Two days earlier a Islamic terrorism critic, a university professor, was killed and a few weeks earlier the Islamic terrorist death squads killed two more people who displeased the Islamic radicals. That makes over a dozen such deaths in the last two years. Yet the police have made few arrests. Because of this the government is under growing popular pressure to do something about increasingly active Islamic terrorists who began with attacks on local Christians (especially those who used to be Moslems) and anyone who criticizes Islamic terrorism (especially via the Internet). That death list is now expanding. Only about one percent of the population is Christian (and eight percent Hindu) the majority (nearly 90 percent) are Moslem. While a minority of those Moslems are sympathetic to Islamic terrorists who are “defending Islam” the majority of the 15o million Bangladeshi Moslems oppose this and are becoming more active in trying to eliminate Islamic terrorism in the country. Actually Bangladesh has far less Islamic terrorism activity than most other Moslem nations. For example, with 75 percent of the population of Pakistan (which is used to be part of until 1971) it has less than two percent as many Islamic terrorism related deaths. Bangladesh had 56 Islamic terrorism related deaths in 2015, down from 60 in 2014 and a record 379 in 2013. The 2013 surge was 69 percent of all Islamic terrorist deaths since 2005 and a sign that Islamic terrorism continues to have a difficult time getting a foothold in Bangladesh. Actually most of the terrorism related deaths were political rather than religious but in the last few years Islamic terrorism has gotten a lot more attention in the news. The government is also increasing its cooperation with India and the United States in identifying and tracking Islamic terrorists. Its efforts like this that have kept Islamic terrorist activity low in Bangladesh.

April 24, 2016: India is pressing the United States for more details on exactly where (in Syria) and when (sometime in the last week) Mohammed Shafi Armar (the head ISIL recruiter for India) was killed. All the Americans would say was that Armar died in an airstrike sometime in mid-April. ISIL is having little success recruiting in India and Pakistan but is still trying. Armar was believed to be in Syria discussing that situation with senior ISIL officials. Armar is from southern India (Karnataka State) and has been active for several years providing Internet based support for Islamic terrorist groups.

April 21, 2016: In Pakistan the head of the army revealed that twelve officers, including two generals, had been dismissed because the recent Panama Papers revelations had linked those officers or their families to secret offshore bank accounts. The military pledged to dismiss any more officers who were found to be corrupt. Most of the officers dismissed so far had worked on border security and apparently took part in the drug gangs using bribes to get their opium and heroin into Pakistan (and then to the world vis the port of Karachi). Bribes were also used to get industrial chemicals into Afghanistan so the opium could be refined into heroin. Many politicians, including the prime minister, have also been discovered to have Panama Paper links but none of them are resigning, yet. There is a growing anti-corruption movement in Pakistan but the corruption is so extensive that it is believed a minority of senior government and military officials are not corrupt.

April 20, 2016: In southeast Pakistan (Karachi) the Taliban took credit for two separate attacks on polio vaccination teams that left seven policemen dead. This is the second such major attack against polio vaccination teams this year. The last one took place in late January in southwest Pakistan (Quetta) where an Islamic terrorist suicide bomber attacked police gathering to escort polio vaccination teams to work. The attack killed 13 police, a soldier and a civilian. Despite the anti-vaccination efforts polio cases In Pakistan continue to decline. That’s mainly because there have been fewer Islamic terrorist attacks on vaccination teams, especially in the northwest. Such attacks still occur throughout the country but with less frequency and impact. For years these attacks killed polio vaccination workers who were treating children. Vaccinations had to be halted temporarily so police could search for the killers and determine when it was safe to resume. These killing usually occur in the tribal territories, where opposition to vaccination is more widespread and effective. This has led to a large number of polio cases (303 in 2014, the highest since 1998), mostly in the tribal areas. Among the refugees from the North Waziristan fighting are over 200,000 children who have never been vaccinated. Some of those refugees fled to Karachi where over a million people from the tribal areas have settled in the last decade. Some 80 percent of recent polio cases in Pakistan still occur in the tribal territories of the northwest. The vaccination effort makes the total elimination of polio a possibility once more. The Taliban, and many other Islamic terrorist groups believe polio vaccinations are a Western plot to poison Moslem children. Since 2012 67 polio vaccination workers in Pakistan have been killed by Islamic terrorists. The January attack was claimed by one of the smaller Pakistani Islamic terrorist groups (Jundullah) but no vaccination workers were killed. That, in Pakistan, is progress.

In addition to unvaccinated refugees from the tribal territories Karachi has become a magnet for Islamic terrorists seeking refuge and another area of high Islamic terrorist activity. Many Islamic terror groups have operations there now. For example police recently arrested a much wanted al Qaeda money man in a raid that was seeking someone else. The arrested al Qaeda man had been under UN sanctions since 2012 and apparently found Karachi a convenient hideout.

April 19, 2016: In northwest Pakistan (Khyber) a suicide bomber attacked a government tax office, killing the suicide bomber and wounding 11 civilians. Security forces chased off any other attackers.

April 18, 2016: In Pakistan the army declared its long (since July 2014) effort to clear Islamic terrorists out of the Shawal valley (about 100 kilometers southwest of Miramshah, the largest city in North Waziristan) was completed. Shawal has long been one of the most popular areas for Islamic terrorists in North Waziristan. The valley is rugged, remote and hard for troops to operate in. Pakistani bombers and American UAVs are still hitting the valley hard because it was one of the few places in North Waziristan where Islamic terrorists were still active, in part because the Afghanistan border is so close. The American UAVs also noted which “protected” Islamic terrorists were still quietly moving through North Waziristan without being bothered by the many soldiers and police there. The offensive in North Waziristan is continuing until the end of 2016. Since June 2014 over 5,000 Islamic terrorists have been killed in these operations, with the army losing 500 troops. About 70 percent of the civilians who fled the fighting have yet to return and the troops are staying until the end of the year to encourage these refugees to come back as 30 percent have already done.

April 17, 2016: In eastern India (Chhattisgarh) three Maoists, including a local leader, died when a bomb they were placing went off prematurely. Maoists continue to suffer heavy losses from surrenders, desertion and combat. In the last few years losses among the Maoist leadership and their key technical people (bomb builders in particular) have been heavy, which is why there have been more of these accidental explosions.

April 9, 2016: In Indian Kashmir (Poonch) Pakistani troops opened fire across the border and Indian troops responded. This lasted about two days and on the 12th commanders from both countries met and agreed to resume the 2003 ceasefire. It had been over six months since the last such incident. There were 405 incidents like this in 2015. In December 2015 Indian and Pakistani military leaders met on the Kashmir border to reaffirm efforts to reduce violence on the LOC (Line of Control) in Kashmir. Such incidents still occur despite a 20o3 ceasefire. The current LOC negotiations have kept things pretty quiet on the LOC since a September 2015 meeting in which India threatened a major military response to almost daily Pakistani attacks. Apparently convinced (especially by the Indian politicians and media calling for war) this was serious the Pakistanis reduced the border violence although not the efforts to get Islamic terrorists across the LOC and into Kashmir. There were nearly a hundred of those in 2015.

 

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