Ten new terror training camps have been opened inside Pakistan since the November 2008 terror assault in Mumbai, India, which was launched from Pakistani soil.
The 10 additional camps raise the total number to 62, according to Indian intelligence agencies. The report, which was first noted in the Hindustan Times, was confirmed by US intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal.
P. Chidambaram, Indian’s Home Minister, “shared details of the camps, along with maps and intercepts of conversations between terrorists and their Pakistani handlers, with the US government” during a visit to the US in early September.
The number of jihadi camps used to target India has fluctuated over the years. In 2005, it was estimated that there were 55 jihadi camps in Kashmir and Pakistan, but 15 were thought to have been wiped out during a deadly earthquake that struck Muzafarrabad and the surrounding areas in Pakistan-held Kashmir.
The 62 camps tallied by India’s Multi-Agency Centre, the country’s national intelligence coordination agency, are the ones that are directly aimed at India and India-held Kashmir, a senior US intelligence official told The Long War Journal.
“These are the camps that are set up specifically to churn out fighters assigned to strike in Kashmir and India,” the official said. The official warned, however, that narrowly viewing the camps as being used to training fighters for either India or Afghanistan is a flawed way to look at the issue, as there is a wide amount of cooperation between the groups.
“The Indian number doesn’t include camps in the NWFP [Northwest Frontier Province], FATA [the Federally Administered Tribal Areas], Baluchistan, and in Punjab that are tasked with aiding the Taliban in Afghanistan and in Pakistan’s tribal areas.”
The exact number of terror camps in Pakistan is not publicly available. Last summer, US intelligence officials told The Long War Journal that there were 157 al Qaeda and Taliban camps in Pakistan’s tribal agencies and the Northwest Frontier Province. The number of camps in Baluchistan and Punjab has not been disclosed.
But a recent report in Newsline provided a disturbing glimpse into the extent of the jihadi network in South Punjab. The region is dotted with more than 3,000 madrassas, or religious schools, with many of them used to radicalize students and recruit fighters. The region is fertile recruiting grounds for the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (the radical offshoot of the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan), Jaish-e-Mohammad, and Lashkar-e-Taiba. These groups have all struck alliances with al Qaeda and the Taliban.
According to the Newsline report, the Bahawalpur division, a region in South Punjab, “could boast of approximately 15,000-20,000 trained militants.” An estimated 5,000 to 9,000 young men from South Punjab are thought to be fighting in Afghanistan and in Pakistan’s tribal areas.
The Quetta Shura, the governing body for the Afghan Taliban, led by Mullah Omar, is based in the capital of Pakistan’s Baluchistan province, while scores of camps are known to operate in the province. The border city of Chaman serves as a forward command post for the Afghan Taliban and the Quetta Shura.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.