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NightWatch 20110728

NightWatch

For the Night of 28 July 2011

North Korea-US: Update. A meeting between top diplomats took place in New York on 28 July as anticipated. The North Koreans described the atmosphere as good. The US said the meeting was serious and businesslike.

Comment: In other words, the US side accomplished nothing beyond presenting its views, but assesses the prospects are positive. The North Korean statement suggests its delegation assesses prospects are favorable for getting aid from the US..

Afghanistan: Suicide attacks occurred on 28 July in Tarin Kot, the capital of Oruzgan Province in southern Afghanistan north of Kandahar, and appear aimed at killing the governor and his staff. Clashes continued between assailants and security forces.

Comment: After the assassination of three top Afghan officials this month, the attack in Tarin Kot appears part of the Taliban tactic to eliminate the senior agents of the central government wherever they may be found.

Special NightWatch Comment: Citing a US officer acting as spokesperson for the NATO Command, USA TODAY reported on 28 July, "For the first time in five years insurgent-initiated attacks in Afghanistan have not increased with the start of a new fighting season, suggesting that a surge of U.S. forces has blunted Taliban momentum, according to the coalition forces."

"The Taliban is 'feeling the effects' of a surge strategy over the winter to drive militants out of former Taliban strongholds and hold the terrain, said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Colette Murphy, a spokeswoman for the coalition command in Kabul, though she cautioned that the Taliban is not defeated."

"In May and June, insurgent attacks were down about 2% compared with the same period last year, says the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Since 2006, insurgent attacks grew by 20% or more each year, according to the data. The NATO command in Kabul released a summary of the statistics in response to a USA TODAY request."

The NightWatch data for May 2011, which is compiled only from open source reporting, indicate May 2011 was the most violent month in Afghanistan since 2001. 

NightWatch's open source data is a sample and, thus, a sub-set of all insurgency and counter-insurgent violence. Thus, the 2,300 violent incidents reported in unclassified sources in May 2011 represents probably a third of the total violence for the month.  Compared to May 2010, the May 2011 total is nearly six times larger.

The real story in Afghanistan is that violent clashes, attacks and IED incidents have grown steadily between November 2011 andJuly 2011. Despite cheerful NATO press releases, open source data indicate security steadily declined in nearly every province of Afghanistan in the past year. The UN data on security corroborate the downward trend.

Without knowing the actual data on which NATO bases its claim of improved security, it is impossible to evaluate the statement by the US officer in Kabul. The NightWatch and UN data, however, indicate clearly that Pollyanna-ish assertions about improved security conditions in Afghanistan are simply unfounded and unjustified. The recent spate of high-profile assassinations reinforces that conclusion.

Iran-US: For the record. The United States formally accused Iran on 28 July of making an agreement with al Qaida in which Tehran would assist in moving weapons, fighters and money through Iranian territory to al Qaida bases in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the Wall Street Journal reported. The U.S. Treasury Department outlined a fund-raising operation devised by al Qaida that uses Iran-based operatives and draws from Persian Gulf countries such as Kuwait and Qatar.

Comment: One of the ironies of Iranian international policy is that the Iranian government harbors and protects a significant number of Sunni terrorists who admit they are members of al Qaida.

Libya: Unidentified assailants killed rebel military commander General Abdel Fattah Younis on 28 July after he was summoned to appear before a judicial committee, Libyan rebel National Transitional Council Chairman Mustafa Abdel Jalil said.

Comment: No group has claimed responsibility for the assassination but it is a setback to the rebels because Younis had stature that challenged Qadhafi. Qadhafi converted his 1969 coup against King Idris into a family sinecure, abandoning the "revolution" in which Younis supported him.

Younis' allegiance to the rebel movement carried great symbolic political significance. However, he never seemed to influence or refine rebel military strategy, operations or tactics.

Somalia: Government forces supported by African Union peacekeeping troops launched an attack against Islamist militants and killed 21 and injured dozens more, officials said 28 July. The attack targeted Islamist militant positions north of Mogadishu. According to Somali state radio, the government forces seized many of the strongholds of the Somali militant group al Shabaab, including important positions north of the city.

Comment: The government claims can never be taken at face value, but al Shabaab has lost momentum. Ethiopian and African Union forces appear to have made some gains around Mogadishu.

A year ago, the demise of the Somali government in Mogadishu appear imminent. Since then some combination of US and pro-US African resources has given the Somali government some room to breathe around Mogadishu.

Eritrea-UN: A UN monitoring group has found that Eritrea was behind a plot to attack the African Union summit in Addis Ababa in January 2011.

The report found all but one of the people arrested for the plot had been trained by Eritrean officers and suggested that the officers also are involved in supervisory and operational roles in external operations in Djibouti, Kenya, Uganda, Somalia and Sudan.

According to the monitoring group, the Eritrean officers present an enhanced level of threat to the region as a whole and it has obtained documentary evidence of Eritrean payments to a number of individuals linked to al Shabaab. The Eritrean Embassy in Nairobi continues to maintain and exploit a network of Somali contacts, intelligence assets and influential agents in Kenya.

Comment: The significance of the UN report is that it identifies Eritrea as promoting terrorism as a component of state security policy and it indicates Eritrea has become the latest base for international terror.

End of NightWatch for 28 July.

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