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NightWatch 20120626

NightWatch

For the Night of 26 June 2012

Afghanistan: A release from the International Security Assistance Force on 25 June reported an increase in attacks by anti-government forces during April and May. Insurgents launched nearly 3,000 attacks around the country in May, up 21% from May 2011, the International Security Assistance Force said. The coalition statistics -- which count all Taliban direct attacks from rocket fire and suicide bombings to small-arms fire and roadside bombs -- also showed a modest year-on-year rise in insurgent attacks in April, with just under 2,000 violent incidents.

According to a news commentary, this violence reversed 11 consecutive months during which insurgent attacks dropped from the previous year's levels, a metric that coalition commanders have frequently highlighted as evidence that the Taliban had lost the initiative in the war.

Comment: NightWatch continues to check daily summaries of fighting. Since the start of the spring offensive in late March and early April, Taliban and anti-government attacks have been high. However, it has almost become a stretch of the evidence to describe the attacks as countrywide because the overwhelming majority of them are concentrated in the areas of the US surge, the 12 Pashtun provinces of the south and southeast.

Anthony Cordesman described the report as "spin" because it does not take into account Taliban intimidation operations at the local level that do not involved Afghan or Coalition forces and thus do not get entered into official data bases. The government of Afghanistan has no mechanism or channel for village chiefs to make reports and the Taliban intimidation obviously discourages it. But such conditions frequently are the case.

It also is unclear in open source materials how much Afghan National Police reporting funnels into the official Coalition data base.

There are some other shortcomings in the reporting system, but they are far less important than the admission of 100 direct attacks per day on Coalition forces. Those numbers are about one -third the level of the Iraq insurgency at its worst. That was waged by upwards of 100,000 full and part time Iraqi fighters.

An average of one hundred attacks per day in a remote, less developed country that manufactures no implements of war or war fighting supplies, represents a lot of ammunition and supplies from Pakistan, and a vigorous level of activity in Afghanistan after 11 years of operations by both sides.

One commentary attributed the increased violence to a poor poppy harvest, presumably freeing up drug farmers to fight. That linkage is not as clear or direct as reported. Officials also derided the Taliban for their inability to hold ground or attack in battalion strength, claims the Soviets made when they were in Afghanistan.

The Taliban, on the other hand, claimed the increase corresponds to the start of their offensive. Ockham's razor favors the Taliban explanation as does the daily fighting reports from open sources. The Taliban and anti-government fighters are surging.

Turkey-Syria: For the record. Prime Minister Erdogan warned Syrian forces to stay away from the border or risk getting fired on.

Egypt: An Egyptian court suspended on Tuesday a government decision allowing military police and intelligence to arrest civilians. The armed forces leadership said it had requested the arrest authority because of the collapse of the civilian police forces. Another court ruling has suspended until 7 July execution of the ruling to dissolve the parliament.

Comment: Some Arab commentators described the court ruling on arrests as another major victory, but it is small. The army that overthrew Mubarak would not hesitate to overthrow president-elect Mursi under appropriate conditions.

Nevertheless, some Egyptian courts appear to be breaking ranks with the military in backing the elected president. At least the civilian political factions think so, judging by the dozens of cases being filed to correct political abuses.

The Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and the Egyptian military leaders met and reportedly reached some agreements on the powers of the president and the fate of the parliament, according to Brotherhood officials on the 26th. The negotiations covered possible amendments to the army's constitutional declaration that limits presidential powers. The press statement contained no details.

Comment: Some secular groups marched on the president's offices to demand the right to continue to drink beer. The Egyptian army also blamed the brotherhood and others for continuing to demonstrate. Clearly the civilian political factions remain fractious, but they appear to agree on the need for the army to get out of governance. If Mursi's national unity government can organize and draw on this point of tangency, he will have a much stronger position for negotiating back the powers of the president.

Apparently the military leaders thought civil order would resume quickly after Mursi's victory was announced. In the way of people who sense victory, some protestors are increasing their demand that the military leave politics after Mursi is sworn in. The Generals may have overestimated their ability to control the political sector and especially the Brotherhood. And if the courts are sympathetic to civilian rule, Mursi has much more political clout than the generals anticipated.

End of NightWatch for 26 June.

NightWatch is brought to you by Kforce Government Solutions, Inc. (KGS), a leader in government problem-solving, Data Confidence® and intelligence. Views and opinions expressed in NightWatch are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily represent those of KGS, its management, or affiliates.

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