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NightWatch 20091203

NightWatch

For the Night of 3 December 2009

Japan: Update. The leader of Japan's Social Democratic Party (SDP) threatened to leave the Democratic Party's ruling coalition if her views on the US military base on Okinawa were ignored, Reuters reported 3 December. Mizuho Fukushima said if the government goes ahead with the existing agreement, she and the SDP will have to make an important decision. Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, head of the coalition, said he takes SDP views seriously. He stated that lawmakers must work hard to find a solution.

Pakistan: The Daily Times ran an item on 4 December that claimed Pakistan was not consulted about the new US strategy in which Pakistan's cooperation is vital to success in one of its three major objectives. The implication was that this was a serious oversight.

Prime Minister Gilani said he wanted more clarity on the parts that affect Pakistan.

Pakistanis also are displeased that their border region was singled-out as the safehaven for al Qaida, the epicenter of international terrorism. They know it; but just don't like it broadcast.

The Afghan Taliban leadership under Mullah Omar is often referred to as the Quetta Shura … because it operates with impunity from Quetta, Baluchistan Province, Pakistan. Every body knows it.

Comment: The Quetta Shura is known to every one in Pakistan leadership circles. Of all the Afghan anti-government groups operating out of Pakistan, it is arguably the easiest to close down. Of all the actions that might have been taken to improve security in Afghanistan, the one never attempted was shutting down the Quetta Shura, not in nine years.

Consider: Pakistan and the NGOs relocated up to 4 million Afghan refugees back to Afghanistan in the early 2000s, after the Taliban leadership ran away from Kabul to Quetta. It would seem a small thing to arrest and deport Mullah Omar's crew in Quetta. There really is no explanation for the obvious protection of Omar and company, and blame lies in Washington as well as Islamabad.

Nothing the US and Pakistan have done in Pakistan's frontier regions has helped improve the security situation in Afghanistan. Pakistan's Actions in Swat and South Waziristan have had no measurable impact on the Afghanistan fighting. The way those operations have progressed shows they were shaped primarily by Pakistani concerns.

Al Qaida is not a significant actor in Afghanistan, according to the testimony this week before the US Congress and in statements through the year by the National Security advisor and others.

Moreover, all the Remotely Piloted Vehicle attacks for the last four years against al Qaida in Pakistan also have had no demonstrable impact in improving security in Afghanistan.

A new strategy has been announced. All the winks and nods plus the unspoken understandings of the past eight years that have passed for policy can be dumped. Omar should no longer get a pass from the US or Pakistan.

Afghan, American, NATO and Pakistani soldiers have died by the hundreds, while Omar and company thrive in Quetta. This is the functional equivalent of refusing to bomb Hanoi during most of the Vietnam War.

Why not try a few RPV attacks, or better, some Pakistan Army Special Security Group operations against the Quetta Shura at long last and see whether they have an effect on the insurgency. Get Musharraf's old command into the action, the SSG, and let the world see whether they are as good as their boasting.

The NightWatch view is that the Quetta Shura is less in command than in coordination of operations and finances. Communications are too poor and Pashtun commanders too independent to obey Mullah Omar unless the Shura sends an emissary, apparently. However, The Shura's operation appears to be essential as the channel for distributing money from mainly Arab donors.

Omar and his men already have shown that they run away when their personal safety is at risk. So put him and his cohorts at risk, put them on the run and disrupt the coordination and distribution operation. That will not end the fighting, but, in a month, almost all southern groups will run out of key bomb making ingredients and ammunition. The unclassified reporting on the clashes suggests resupply from Pakistan or Iran is cyclical, probably from a few weeks to a month, depending on the province, the size of the fighting groups and the complexity of the operations they execute.

If a person digs hard enough on the Net, he could probably find a good telephone number and address for Omar's family. So, Pakistani SSG, how hard could this be? And while you are at it, lean on the Haqqanis and Hekmatyar who also have had a pass for nine years, killing Americans, Afghans, NATO and Pakistani soldiers.

Afghanistan: Contradicting official testimony given to the US Congress yesterday, a province administrator for Nimruz Province said elements within Iran are, in fact, providing funds and weapons to the Taliban in the western provinces, Radio Free Afghanistan reported 3 December.

Asadullah Haqdost told Radio Free Afghanistan that security officials have "reliable" evidence that support from Iran is going to Taliban fighters in western Afghanistan. He said there is a training camp in Iran where some fighters were trained and equipped before being sent to Afghanistan to attack Afghans and foreign troops.

Comment: Weapons caches and other facts supporting Haqdost's statements are well known and regularly reported in Afghan media and have been for years. Shaped charges ostensibly made in Iran have been found in more than one cache. Taliban groups in Farah, Herat and Nimruz could not operate without access to Iran and support from Iran. The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps are in the east in some force because several senior officers were killed by Sunni Jundullah outlaws in late October.

Politics. President Karzai said on Thursday he was willing to talk with Taliban chief Mullah Omar in a bid to bring peace to the country, provided the move would have the backing of the US and other international partners. In an interview with The Associated Press, Karzai said that "sections of the international community" had undermined previous peace overtures to the Taliban by harassing mediators. "The fight against terrorism and extremism cannot be won by fighting alone," Karzai said.

Karzai did not identify those who undermined past peace overtures.

Russia-Iran: Russia has "no information that Iran is working on the creation of a nuclear weapon," Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said 3 December in response to a reporter's question as to whether Iran was close to making an atomic bomb, Reuters reported. Putin did not answer a reporter who asked if Russia would support sanctions against Iran.

Yet Putin did answer the question on sanctions because in making the statement quoted above Putin shaped the attitudes of the Security Council. It's a lot like jury tampering. Russia will side with China to block a hard hitting sanctions resolution.

US-Iran: The US reaffirmed today that the deadline for Iran to accept international agreements for uranium enrichment is the end of the year, The Associated Press reported. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters that members of the P-5+1 have discussed the fact that "time is running out." See Putin's statement above.

Somalia: Witnesses and senior government sources said an explosion that tore through a hotel in the Somali capital of Mogadishu killed three government ministers and at least one other person, Dawn News reported 3 December. The source of the blast at the Shamo Hotel was not immediately clear, but witnesses said it appeared to be an attack targeting a graduation ceremony held by Benadir University and attended by many government officials.

Senior government sources said Health Minister Qamar Aden Ali, Education Minister Ahmed Abdulahi Waayeel and Higher Education Minister Ibrahim Hassan Addow died in the blast.

Deaths from the suicide bomb explosion rose to 57, with as many as 200 wounded, Xinhua reported, citing local ambulance services.

The key point is that the pro-US government in Mogadishu is fighting over neighborhoods in Mogadishu. That is the extent of its writ in its own capital. Still, al Shabaab and its Islamist supporters seem unable to take control of the capital in one movement. So death by a thousand cuts continues for the Transitional Federal Government.

Kenya: Update. The government has secured its border with Somalia to stop illegal immigrants, including possible members of the Somali militant group al Shabaab, from entering the country, Kenyan Defense Minister Yusuf Haji said 3 December, Kenya Broadcasting Corporation reported. Haji said the government is on a high-security alert. He also said Kenyan citizens have been asked to report any suspicious people.

Guinea: Government leader Captain Moussa "Dadis" Camara was attacked by soldiers at a military camp on 3 December and has been taken to the presidential palace, Reuters and the BBC reported, citing a statement from Dadis' communications minister. Dadis was injured but is okay. A renegade element of the presidential guard is responsible for the attack, which was an assassination attempt. Dadis ousted the civilian government in a coup 11 months ago. Apparently the coup monger has yet to consolidate anything.

US-Mexico: The US Treasury Department has frozen the U.S.-based assets of 10 companies and 22 individuals believed to be linked to the Mexican drug cartel Beltran-Leyva Organization (BLO), which is accused of smuggling drugs into the United States and of murdering Mexican counter-narcotics agents, Reuters reported today. The companies targeted have locations throughout Mexico, and are involved in businesses such as air and vehicle shipping, electronics retailing, hospitality services and health-products trade.

According to the news services from the Texas border, marijuana smuggling is way up but human smuggling is way down, to oversimplify a complex security problem. The question for the Treasury is why does this process take so long and seems so scatter-shot?

Treasury and its Office of Intelligence and Analysis should be one of the best staffed and best backed intelligence operations in Washington. Despite a small staff, OIA does real work towards permanent solutions. Doubters only need to ask the Banco Delta Asia and North Korea.

This is tonight's good news - one Department that fights security problems with the tools that the US excels at: brains and finance.

End of NightWatch for 3 December.

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