Terrorists Shift To A Media Battle
November 25, 2008: Despite the popularity of anti-Americanism in Pakistan, the recent replacement of the military government of general Musharraf, by an elected one, has focused public ire on Islamic radicalism (Taliban and al Qaeda). In addition, the Taliban are looked down on as the product of the poor, ignorant and violent Pushtun border tribes. Al Qaeda is seen as a bunch of homicidal foreigners. The Islamic radicals have a serious image problem. They also have a tribal problem. Declaring oneself “Taliban” is a political, religious and tribal decision. The Taliban are dedicated to establishing a religious dictatorship, with religious police enforcing a very restrictive lifestyle. As dissatisfied as most Pakistanis are with their government, the Taliban is seen as worse. Al Qaeda want to impose their own form of religious dictatorship, but are seen as attempting to impose foreign clerical tyrants on Pakistan. That doesn’t fly with most Pakistanis either. Pakistanis are still unhappy. As they should be, given how corrupt and inefficient their government is. But at the moment, the Islamic militants are sliding in the popularity polls. Suicide bombing are not numerous enough to overthrow the government, and make more Pakistanis hostile to Islamic radicalism.
In the Pakistani tribal areas, the war against the Taliban has become more and more a tribal conflict between pro and anti-Taliban tribes. With over 100,000 soldiers siding with the anti-Taliban tribes, the Taliban are fighting a losing battle, in the Winter, against their enemies. The anti-Taliban furor is increased with tribesmen telling reporters about encounters with Chechen, Uzbek, Tajik, Sudanese and Afghan terrorists fighting alongside the Taliban tribesmen. Only about a third of Pakistanis have a favorable attitude towards al Qaeda and Islamic terrorism, and most of these live in areas where there is no Islamic terrorism or pro-Taliban tribes.
In the Bajaur district of Pakistan, which is right on the Afghan border, NATO and Afghan troops on the Afghan side are coordinating operations with Pakistani troops on the other side. Taliban and al Qaeda fighters are trying to cross the border to find sanctuary in Afghanistan, but the Afghans are attacking them.
Unable to cope with the Pakistani army and police, Islamic radicals are devoting more effort to terror attacks. Many of these are being directed at local anti-Taliban leaders. But this results in suicide bomb attacks on mosques and funerals, which just enflames anti-Taliban anger. The battle against the Taliban is getting very personal, with anti-Taliban tribal groups going for the homes of Taliban leaders, burning them down and driving the families out.
In Indian Kashmir, the decline in terrorist activity has led to an increase in political activity by separatist Moslems. The Moslem majority in Kashmir now wants peace, but many also want the Hindus (both soldiers and remaining civilians) out. The Indians will not go, so the street demonstrations continue. The political struggle in Kashmir is between separatists (the minority, and prone to violence) and the moderates (who are tired after more than a decade of separatist violence.)
India’s Hindu radical BJP party is on the defensive as more revelations show Hindu terrorists have been bombing both Hindu and Moslem targets in an attempt to start a religious war. Since Moslems are only 14 percent of the population, they would lose such a war, and most would die or be driven out of the country. That possibility has kept most Moslems from supporting terrorism, thus the Hindu nationalists use of attacks on Hindu targets in an attempt to get the hate going.
In northwest Pakistan, there was another breakout of religious violence between Shia (20 percent of the population) and Sunni (most of the rest) radicals. At least half a dozen people have died. There are dozens of Islamic terror groups in Pakistan, many of them more intent on fighting other Moslems than in going after infidels (non-Moslems).
November 24, 2008: Army and police operations around Peshawar (the largest city in the Pakistani tribal zone) resulted in several dozen terrorists dead or arrested. Large weapons stores were discovered and seized. The police also extended the city boundaries to include another 25 villages, putting these under police, not tribal, rule. This provides less area for terrorists to hide out in, close to the city.
November 20, 2008: The Pakistani government staged an event for the media, where troops “practiced” shooting down UAVs. In practice, these aircraft are difficult to detect, especially at night, much less hit. But the media event was mainly to show the Pakistani people that the government was serious about stopping the American UAV missile attacks on Taliban and al Qaeda leaders. In fact, the government benefits greatly from these attacks, but nationalist politicians are more interested in scoring political and media points. Some politicians blame the increasing use of suicide bombs on the UAV attacks. But the Islamic terrorists are interested mainly in terrorizing the population into allowing the militants to take over, not just as retaliation for Hellfire missiles killing terrorist leaders.
November 18, 2008: For the first time, an American UAV fired a Hellfire missile at a Pakistani target outside the tribal territories along the Afghan border. This attack killed six foreign terrorists. The attack, at Bannu, is just across the border of the tribal territories. However, it enraged Pakistani nationalists, who now threaten demonstrations to block truck traffic into Pakistan. This is how NATO and U.S. forces get 75 percent of their supplies. Such demonstrations could get bloody, as lots of people depend on that truck traffic for their livelihood. The tribes that straddle the border are paid to keep the routes safe, and may use violence against any demonstrators. The trucks must traverse several hundred kilometers of tribal territory on their way to military bases in Kabul and throughout southern Afghanistan.