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NightWatch 20100429

NightWatch

For the Night of 29 April 2010

Thailand: The Nation reported on 30 April that some 200 Red Shirts broke into Chulalongkorn Hospital searching for soldiers. The hospital is located near the Red Shirt rally site. The Red Shirts took two men from the hospital but later released them. The Police negotiated an agreement to permit the Red Shirts to check every day to ensure that no soldiers are in the hospital.

Comment:  If the report of the negotiated agreement is accurate, that would help explain the difficulty the security forces have in suppressing the Red Shirt demonstrations.  The security forces do not appear to be working in unison in supporting the government.

India-Pakistan: India Prime Minister Singh met his Pakistani Prime Minister Gillani at the 26th summit of South Asian nations in Bhutan. No results were announced, but the two sides agreed the talks were "positive."

Pakistan: For the record. The United States will transfer $600 million to Pakistan to reimburse it for military operations conducted during the past year, according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Defense on April 29. A Pentagon spokesman said the $600 million will be sent to Pakistan within the next few weeks, and that Washington has made great efforts at accelerating reimbursement payments to Islamabad.

Comment: A few months ago a Brilliant and Discerning Reader suggested in feedback that Pakistani counter-militant operations did not represent a basic change in Pakistani views of the threat. He did not know why the Pakistanis suddenly began pursuing Afghan Taliban, but was certain the reason was something other than a shift in national priorities.

This news item provides that missing component of causality. The Saudis have bought Pakistan Army security services, from time to time. Why not the US. Using economic power to improve security is always cheaper than using military power and better than spilling American lives in far away places. It works as long as the money does not run out.

This also helps explain the seeming paradox of the Pakistan Army's continued identification of India as the primary threat, while committing substantial resources against the militants in the west.

Afghanistan: Update. The Afghan National Army will begin patrolling the Kabul-Kandahar portion of the Ring Road highway from Maydan Shahr, Wardak Province to Ghazni Province, taking over security responsibilities previously shared with Afghan national and regional police, Pajhwok news agency reported 29 April, citing a spokesman for the Wardak regional governor.

The spokesman said the departments unanimously agreed to shift the security responsibility, and that the move came at the request of local residents concerned about the worsening security situation. The army will take over 12 police posts, and national and local police will be deployed to villages to maintain security there.

This is the most dangerous road in Afghanistan. Police have been as much a part of the security problems on the Ring Road as have been bandits and Taliban. Road security will be a useful test of Afghan army capabilities. It would be better if they had Afghan helicopter gunship support. Afghan pilots used to fly Soviet-supplied gunships and transports.

Russia-Iran: Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said that Russia is disappointed with Iran's reaction to the international community's constructive proposals concerning its nuclear program, but considers calls for the use of force against Iran to be unacceptable, according to Interfax. "We will have to negotiate agreements anyway. Calls for the use of force are unacceptable," Lavrov said at the Council of Europe on Thursday, 29 April. He said the use of force against Tehran will lead to catastrophic consequences, including for Europe, not to mention the Near and Middle East, Central Asia, Caucasus.

Comment: Lavrov did not comment on sanctions, but the tone of his comments suggests Russian policy towards Iran has not changed much. Russia, like China, favors negotiations and doing business with Iran.

Administrative Note: NightWatch has studied the report to Congress on progress toward security and stability in Afghanistan and will comment a greater length on it later. A few remarks are in order at this time.

Tonight the single salient point for Readers is that the report's conclusion that the security situation is not getting worse is consistent with the NightWatch assessment of the past year. For example, the NightWatch data on fighting in Afghanistan for the first quarter of 2010 show clearly that the insurgency has peaked in two senses. First it remains confined to the Pashtuns and the areas in which they reside, almost exclusively. Second, no new districts are under stress. This does not mean that anyone is winning. It just means the insurgency is primarily a Pashtun phenomenon, which should not be news to Readers.

Readers should be aware that the US media have taken out of context some of the judgments in the Report. For example, the factual statement that violence grew some 90% over the same time last year is caveated in the Report with an explanation that few mainstream media outlets related. Honest coverage should have added the explanation, contained in the Report, that the US mounted its largest offensive ever during that period. The Germans and British also mounted offensives in the prior 12 months.

The charts in the Report show that every year violence has grown significantly. Cherry picking pieces of judgments is sensational headline grabbing. Sadly, the poor crafting of the Report almost invites cherry picking.

The Report contains 3 and a half pages on the status of the insurgency in a report that runs to 152 pages, not counting classified annexes. They are pages 21, 22, 23 and half of 24. One of them contains a map of Afghanistan. This is a travesty that cannot be rectified by a classified annex.

There are other problems with the report, including internal contradictions and inconsistencies; confounding differences in writing and analytical style and assertions that simply are not credible. More on those at another time.

End of NightWatch for 29 April.

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