India-Pakistan: Making Al Qaeda Sanctuaries Go Away


June 4,2008: The Pakistani peace deal with the pro-Taliban tribes (particularly with warlord Baitullah Mehsud in South Waziristan, on the Afghan border) is stumbling over the details. Mehsud refuses to stop sending fighters into Afghanistan. The Pakistani government can't sign a deal that explicitly allows this, so Mehsud is being asked to agree to behave, then do what he likes. Mehsud does not want to lie about such an important item, so negotiations continue. So does a feud between Mehsud and nearby tribal leader Maulvi Nazir, who worked with the army last year to expel several hundred foreign al Qaeda members (and killing over a hundred in the process). Mehsud believes Nazir was wrong to treat the al Qaeda men (who had turned to banditry and were abusing members of Nazirs tribe) as he did. But for Mehsud, Nazir's biggest sin was cooperating with the army. Welcome to tribal politics on the frontier.

Meanwhile, many militants are not waiting for the treaty to be finished, and are putting on masks and attacking "un-Islamic" activities, like the sale of videos and music. Dozens of shops and stalls have been burned down recently. The Pakistani government wants peace along the border, but this peace deal with the tribes is increasingly seen as a misleading stop-gap. Al Qaeda is setting up shop under the protection of the pro-Taliban tribes, and the Pakistani government sees itself being blamed for any terrorist activity traced back to this new al Qaeda sanctuary. Somehow, the peace deal has to be put together in such a way that the Pakistani government has plausible deniability when this new terrorist sanctuary becomes active.

June 3, 2008: Indian counter-terrorism experts are trying to figure out why recent al Qaeda messages (from leaders to followers) have dropped references to Hinduism (the ancient religion of 80 percent of Indians). For decades, al Qaeda propaganda had specifically referred to Christians, Jews and Hindus as the enemies of Islam, and the targets of al Qaeda attacks. It's also noted that al Qaeda has not made a big effort to put people into India.

June 2, 2008: In Pakistan's capital, a suicide bomb went off in front of the Danish embassy, killing eight and wounding over 30. Four of the dead were Pakistani security personnel, the rest civilians. The attack was apparently in retaliation for anti-terrorist cartoons published in Denmark last February, which many Islamic radicals consider anti-Moslem. Thus al Qaeda was believed responsible for this attack, although no one took credit for it (apparently so as to not interfere with the ongoing peace negotiations between the Taliban tribes along the Afghan border, and the Pakistani government.) This was the first terror attack (outside the tribal areas) in two months.

June 1, 2008: A roadside bomb went off in northwest Pakistan, killing three civilians. It's unclear exactly who the target was.

May 31, 2008: In southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan), violence between Baluchi (one of the smaller minorities in Pakistan) tribesmen and migrants from Punjab (the largest minority in Pakistan) left nine dead, many more wounded and much property destroyed. Most of the victims are Punjabis. The Baluchis are very territorial, and hostile to "outsiders." But people from Punjab (45 percent of the population) and Sind (14 percent) are better educated and possess technical skills lacking among the Baluchis (3.5 percent of the population), and must be brought in to do work requiring technical skills.

May 30, 2008: Indian Moslems are becoming increasingly vocal in denouncing Islamic terrorism. While Islamic radicalism has its fans in India, most Moslems there are not interested, and, more importantly, not intimidated by Islamic terrorists. Police have received a lot of cooperation from the Moslem community in hunting down Islamic terrorists, and Moslem clergy are encouraging more such cooperation.

May 28, 2008: Near the Afghan border in Pakistan, a pickup truck full of pro-Taliban tribesmen and ammunition exploded, killing six and wounding two. At first it was believed to be another U.S. Hellfire missile attack, as a Predator UAV had been seen in the area. But the survivors revealed that a grenade had gotten loose in the truck, exploded, and detonated other explosives.

May 27, 2008: The U.S. has imposed financial sanctions on Lashkar e Toiba (LeT), the principal Islamic terrorist organization operating out of Pakistan, and in Indian Kashmir. Some al Qaeda terrorists captured by the United States have been trained in LeT camps.


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