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NightWatch 20120227

NightWatch

For the night of 27 February 2012

India-Pakistan: The Indian military is planning a 20,000-troop war exercise near the India-Pakistan border, an Indian Army spokesman said on 27 February. The spokesman said the maneuvers, which will include 200 Russian-made tanks and the country's latest combat aircraft, will occur in the Indian state of Rajasthan from March to May.

               Comment: The exercise announcement satisfies the mutual agreement the leaders of the two states have exchanged to avoid escalation to conflict owing to a misperception of routine training. As major Indian exercises are measured in the past 60 years, this is not a big one.

The location in the Rajasthan Desert region means the location is "tank country." That means that the target for an Indian Army armored offensive thrust from Rajasthan into Pakistan would be to cut Pakistan in half, just north of Karachi. The terrain from the Indian border to the east bank of the Indus River in Pakistan is tank country that favors the offense.

India permanently bases 12 World War I-style infantry divisions, containing about 250,000 soldiers, on the international border with Pakistan, which runs from the Indian Ocean to the southern border of Jammu and Kashmir State. It maintains an additional 250,000 soldiers along the ceasefire line in Kashmir, called the Line of Control.

An exercise in Rajasthan that involves 20,000 soldiers and 200 tanks is noteworthy, but not escalatory. It means India still considers Pakistan a potential enemy, but not necessarily the primary enemy. That would be China.

The timing of the exercise suggests it is part of the late winter Army collective training, and thus normal. The significance is that it means India has not let down its guard against Pakistan, despite the improvement in ties during the past ten years.

Afghanistan: Two suicide attackers detonated a car bomb on 27 February at the entrance to NATO's Jalalabad airport. At least nine Afghans died in the attack, including one member of the Afghan security forces, six civilians and two private security guards, Nangarhar Province's security chief Ebadullah Talwar said. The Taliban claimed the attack was retaliatory for the burning of the Korans by US soldiers at Bagram.

Comment: Even if the attacks and civil disorders subside, the riots are a vision of the endgame for US involvement in Afghanistan. It ends without trust, after a decade of sacrifices.

American and NATO personnel can no longer trust the Afghans they are training and advising. Afghans cannot trust the Westerners will respect them, their practices and their values. The Afghans want to survive; the Westerners want to change the Afghans. That creates a cultural divide that has always proven too great to bridge.  Afghanistan's cultures were old long before modern Europe emerged or America was discovered. 

Today, Wired published an article on the cultural ignorance of US and other NATO military personnel. After more than ten years, they still do not know that Christians and infidels cannot burn Korans, even if that it is the way the Western manuals say they must be disposed.  Westerners cannot tell whether the riots are religious or political or both… and so much more.

Joint patrols, training and partnership are now not feasible. Temporary disengagement is the only short term answer that safeguards US and other international personnel. Nothing US and NATO commanders can do will reassure village imams that the westerners can be trusted to respect Islam, as the Afghan tribes understand and practice it.

Syria-Qatar: Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor al-Thani said he thinks Qatar should do whatever is necessary to support the opposition in Syria, even if it means giving them weapons. Al-Thani made the remarks while visiting Norway to meet with Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg.

Comment: Al Thani's remarks match those of the Saudi Foreign Minister. They reinforce that the hypothesis that the fight in Syria is between Sunnis and Shiites more than anything else. It has nothing to do with western notions of democracy.

End of NightWatch for 27 February.

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