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NightWatch 20111206

NightWatch

For the night of 6 December 2011

Afghanistan: A Pakistan-based Islamic extremist group, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), claimed responsibility for coordinated attacks in three cities against Afghan Shiites, who were observing Ashura, which commemorates the death of Shiite Islam's holiest martyr. The attacks took place in Kabul, Kandahar and Mazar-i-Sharif - almost simultaneously and killed at least 63 Shiite worshipers The LeJ had not previously claimed or carried out attacks in Afghanistan.

Comment: LeJ is known to be hostile to and to have attacked Shiites in Pakistan, but no sources reported previous LeJ attacks in Afghanistan. The group officially is banned in Pakistan but it has a long history of receiving support from Pakistan's inter-Services Intelligence Directorate. LeJ has never had a presence in Afghanistan, but it obviously has sympathetic organized groups of Afghans willing to work as its agents

The significance of the attacks is that they occurred; in three of the most important towns in Afghanistan;and from south to north. The message is that determined groups can attack anywhere with impunity in Afghanistan.

Kyrgyzstan: President Almazbek Atambayev does not support the US presence at the Transit Center military facility at Manas, Kyrgyzstan, Interfax reported on 6 December. The US uses the Transit Center to support operations in Afghanistan.

Atambayev said Kyrgyzstan would fulfill its obligations under the agreement with the US, but he wants the US out and to convert the center into an international civilian transit hub after the agreement expires in 2014. Any investors can participate in the development of the hub, he said.

Comment: While Atambayev's statement seems bold, it actually restates what already has been planned. After 2014, the Afghanistan adventure will have ended. He is playing to the gallery. Every central Asian state involved in the Afghanistan adventure has begun preparing for the US end game and the next phase of central Asian history.

Iran: Comment: Iran claims to have downed a hi-tech sophisticated remotely piloted US aircraft. Most of the commentary has focused on the implications of Iranian exploitation of the technology and its export to China.

A concern not mentioned is the implication for modern warfare when both parties contest the airspace. Regular losses of hi-tech drones to simpler and less expensive air defense systems are not sustainable, even by the US. The era of the drone is a function of uncontested control of the airspace. That is not likely to characterize future conflicts because China, Iran and others have learned by watching the US.

Syria-Turkey: Syrian border guards clashed with approximately 35 armed rebels trying to enter Syria from Turkey on 6 December, according to the Syrian news agency, SANA. Some of the wounded rebels escaped back across the border, where the Turkish military provided aid and transportation, SANA reported.

Comments: The continuing reports of Syrian opposition activities from bases in Turkey compel the conclusion that Turkey has decided as a matter of state policy to support the opposition and bring down the al-Asad government. This Turkish decision risks an escalating border conflict in a proxy fight.

Europe: Update. French Prime Minister Fillon said on 6 December that it is more likely that the 17 eurozone members would agree on a new European Union (EU) treaty to rescue the euro than that all 27 EU member states, which is what Germany would prefer. The European Council will try to get the 27 member states to agree to the proposed treaty on 9 December, but if they cannot achieve unanimity they will do it by March 2012 with only the eurozone countries, Fillon said.

Comment: The EU is on the path to becoming at least two-tiered, if not further fragmented. If a structural political realignment is supposed to be the solution to the debt crisis, no authority has explained how. The linkage between malady and remedy is not at all clear. The French prime minister also did not suggest a new name for the eurozone, integrated subset of the EU.

End of NightWatch for 6 December.

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