India-Pakistan: The Enemy You Know


July 31, 2008: Islamic militants throughout Pakistan and Afghanistan continue their violence. It's mostly young (teens and 20s) guys with guns and not much training or organization. The weather is warm, and there is loot to be had. It's tradition, and they're on a mission from God. In Afghanistan, professional U.S. and NATO soldiers kill hundreds of these guys a week. In Pakistan, the army and police kill nearly as many. Indian Kashmir still has Islamic terrorists operating, usually with small scale attacks, like tossing a hand grenade at troops or non-Moslem civilians.

Pakistan has directed most of its counter-terror efforts at al Qaeda, especially the leadership. Police and army operations in the last few months have led to the arrest of some 40 al Qaeda leaders and technicians. The government fears al Qaeda more than the Taliban, because al Qaeda has openly declared war on the government, and has developed a suicide bombing capability that is a direct threat to senior government officials. The Taliban are a tribal problem, and the tribes have been up in those hills, causing trouble, for thousands of years. That was the devil they knew. Al Qaeda was something new, and perceived as more dangerous.

While this violence is mostly a rural, tribal, thing, urban Moslems get involved as well. The Indians have been having increasing problem with their Moslem population (over 150 million). Young Indian Moslems have organized radical groups, with the same goals as al Qaeda (world-wide domination by Islam). These groups have been trying to get some mass murder going. But lack of technical skill, and police action have limited their success at killing a lot of people. 

The Taliban is trying to control cross border trade between Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is a very lucrative trade, both the legal stuff and the smuggling. Various tribes get paid to assure the safety of legal, and illegal, goods crossing the border. The Taliban, representing only a few of those tribes, is trying to grab it all. This would, in theory, enable the Taliban to cut off the movement of supplies to foreign troops in Afghanistan (which has no ports and very few railroads). The tribes, the governments and the foreign troops are not about to let some ambitious pro-Taliban tribal chieftains grab that much power and money. It's a bold move (typical of Islamic radicals) that is bound to fail (also typical of Islamic radicals).

Indian and Pakistani troops are shooting at each other over a border dispute in Kashmir. India built a new bunker along the border, and Pakistani officers insisted that the bunker was on the Pakistani side of the Line of Control (the "border" agreed to by the two armies after war in the late 1940s, when Pakistani troops invaded Kashmir to prevent it from becoming part of India). The two countries have slightly different maps showing exactly where the Line of Control is. India has about 300,000 troops guarding the 440 kilometer long Line of Control. Pakistan has nearly as many troops, backed by the threat of using nuclear weapons.

July 30, 2008: In Pakistan's Swat valley, hundreds of Islamic radicals attacked a police station, but were repulsed, suffering over fifty casualties. Elsewhere in the Swat valley, pro-Taliban tribesmen burned down a girls school, and completed the destruction of Pakistan's only ski resort. There is supposed to be a ceasefire in the Swat valley, but the Taliban consider that a tactical move to halt army operations against tribal resources (villages where the tribesmen live and roads they use to move around).

The U.S. government has once more tried to pressure the Pakistani government to purge its intelligence agency (the ISI) of pro-Islamic radical officials. The Pakistanis once more refused to admit there was a problem.

In eastern India, police continue to seek out and destroy camps used by Maoist rebels. This is causing several dozen casualties a week, including those killed or wounded by Maoists enforcing their extortion operations (collecting "revolutionary taxes.") Similar violence continues in the northeast, where tribal separatist rebels also run an extortion operation, and police also seek out their bases, and get shot at in the process.

July 29, 2008: In Pakistan's Swat valley, where the army and police have been cracking down on Islamic radical groups, an Islamic militia surrounded a police station and took 30 security personnel prisoner. The tribesmen will now hold these prisoners until the government lets some jailed tribesmen free.

July 26, 2008: The Indian city of Ahmedabad was hit by 17 small bombs, that killed 29 and wounded over a hundred. An Indian Islamic group, the Indian Mujahideen, took credit, and claimed the attack was revenge for past Hindu-Moslem violence in the state of Gujarat (which contains Ahmedabad and a mixed Hindu-Moslem population that experienced widespread violence in 2002, that left over 2,500 dead, most of them Moslems).

July 25, 2008: In downtown Bangalore, India, eight small bombs went off. This killed two and wounded six. Several Islamic groups were suspected, because none took credit.


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