Thursday, October 06, 2016

Was someone important captured in the Indian Army cross border strikes?

The attack on the 46 RR camp in Baramulla was quite strange. RR camps are heavily defended and there is no reason to attack one or to even provoke attention from one. There is often no way to get to an RR camp without passing through a screening force made up of BSF and CPMF units. If you come near an RR camp or get withing line of sight with an RR patrol and they don't like you - then you are in for a lot of harassment.

Doing this at a time when tensions between the countries were so high didn't make a lot of sense to me. If anything the PA-ISI should have been asking its assets to go to sleep given the climate. What possible sense could there be in throwing away squads on hard targets like an RR camp?

Now it appears that the squad tasked to attack the camp encountered a screening force and that "woke up" the entire defense line around the camp. The element of surprise was lost. At this point - in a fashion completely out of sync with other other fedayeen attacks, the assault commander appears to have called off the attack. This says he wasn't keen on sending his men to die - the objective of the raid was not to kill people at the RR camp.

What is stranger still was that the attackers escaped and after the attack a Para-SF unit was called in to clear the area. This almost immediately suggested to me that the Indian Army felt the threat to the RR camp was quite severe, otherwise why bother with redeploying the local reserve to cope with the situation?

Nothing made sense to me until a few days ago, Banuk Zarina Baloch's twitter account posted an image of a man in Indian Army custody.  I do not know who the man is in this picture or if he is indeed the man photographed next to Hafiz Saeed, but if the images are accurate and it is the same person - we are looking at a very high level LeT asset who has been captured. Given the revolving door that exists between these groups and the ISI - this person is likely to be very close the ISI itself.

It is difficult to imagine why such a person would be near the border. Usually critical assets are placed far away from any situation where they could be compromised. This was the case with Tariq Aziz's son (Tariq Aziz was a civilian bureaucrat who was very close Gen. Musharraf). Tariq's son fell in with the Al-Badr Mujaheddin. Al-Badr acts as a kind of nodal body for United Jihad Council operations in Muzaffarabad. It attracts a large cadre of experienced and highly placed Jihad vets and usually played a major organizational role in the way the Jihad is actually conducted in Kashmir. At that time, it appears Tariq's son wanted to cross the LoC and go to India. This would put Tariq at great risk and so he was picked up from Al-Badr HQ and deposited back his father's care before he could do anything really dangerous.

I do not know how much faith I want to put in Zarina's image and what it suggests, but there have been sporadic reports of people being arrested in the Indian attacks on the "launch pads". If anyone of importance was captured, it is possible they would kept in the 46 RR camp for interrogation before being moved to Red Fort in New Delhi. Anyone arrested would traditionally have been moved to facilities like Haftchinar, Hariniwas and Fairview, but those were closed down in the last decade. I suppose an RR camp would be the perfect place to locate such a detention center - no one in their right minds would think of interfering with it.

The fact that someone in Pakistan would think it was a good idea to tangle with an RR camp suggests to me that there was something valuable inside the camp itself. Something valuable enough to risk expending a full fedayeen module. Add to this the fact the fedayeen squad commander chose not to press the attack and we have a very few options for what this was all about.

I think it is plausible that a high value asset was captured by the Indian Army in one of its recent operations and the asset was being detained at the Baramulla RR facilities.

Whoever this asset is, (I don't know if the person in Zarina's photo is that person) the ISI wants to get them back.

A submerged dynamic like this could emerge as a significant driver in the escalation.

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