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NightWatch 20121001

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For the night of 1 October 2012

Afghanistan-NATO: The withdrawal of Western forces from Afghanistan could come sooner than expected, according to NATO Secretary General Rasmussen. He conceded that the recent Taliban strategy of 'green on blue' killings had been successful in sapping NATO morale.

In an interview with The Guardian Rasmussen acknowledged he felt pressure for a faster withdrawal from Afghanistan and said all options were being studied and should be clear within three months.

Rasmussen also said NATO's forces in Afghanistan have recommenced joint operations with Afghan forces. He said, "Almost all partnered activities have now been resumed and that reflects an assessment made by our commanders as regards the overall security situation."

Special Comment: Two developments indicate the Coalition command does not know how to deal with the surge in green-on-blue murders. The first is the Afghan government's issuance of a cultural guide to Afghan forces advising them to not over-react to the cultural insensitivity of the Western soldiers.

The Afghan government has issued a new pamphlet, written by Afghan and American officers, that says Afghans should not take offense at cultural insults by Westerners because there are the result of ignorance… after more than a decade of interaction and cultural sensitivity training. Hmmmm.

This pamphlet implies that the spate of murders is the result of trivial cultural miscues. Even the Afghan general involved in the effort thinks it is feckless, too little too late. The implication is that the US and NATO command believe American and NATO soldiers are to blame for their own murders because they were insensitive to Afghan behavioral norms.

This thesis insults the Americans, NATO soldiers and the Afghans after a decade of interaction. It is preposterous and trivializing to ascribe murder to minor cultural gaffes. The Afghans are more sophisticated and moral than that. The killings are a manifestation of a long term Taliban strategy, not a reaction to cultural misunderstandings.

The failure of the Coalition Command to recognize these killings as a tactic of warfare represents a significant intelligence, cultural and command failure. It means that better behavior by Western soldiers will not stop the murders.

In 2001, Mullah Omar said his followers would execute such tactics, when the time came. The murders of American and NATO soldiers are not manifestations of a lack of trust. The Taliban consider American and NATO soldiers as the enemy. Trust is irrelevant.

The second development is the resumption of joint patrols, as a gesture of cross-cultural trust. This order is the ultimate proof that the NATO military leaders misunderstand the gravity and the nature of the threat to its soldiers.

Early withdrawal is at least an achievable objective, compared to eleventh hour misguided programs to try to gain the trust of Afghans, after a decade of Western occupation.

Iran: For the record. The Iranian rial lost more than 25% of its value as trading concluded on Monday, falling from 24,600 per dollar to 34,200 per dollar. The Iranian currency's decline is considered evidence that the sanctions imposed by the US and its Western allies have had a dramatic impact on Tehran's economy.

Comment: Over the weekend, Israeli news outlets reported that the Iranian economy is near collapse. That appears to be an exaggeration, but international  trading in rials has no value.  On the other hand, economic hardships have not made the Ayatollahs more willing to engage in substantive negotiations about ending the nuclear program. Nor have they induced Iranian government leaders to issue orders to stop the program … yet. That might take a government overthrow, which is not as unlikely as it once seemed, according to the leaked Israeli Foreign Ministry document.

Somalia: After a successful offensive led by Kenyan soldiers the al Shabaab militants withdrew from the port town of Kismayu early Saturday, abandoning their last major coastal stronghold. They vowed to take the war underground.

According to Kismayu residents, the last Shabaab fighters sneaked out of the city by dawn, opting to flee rather than face the better-equipped Kenyan Army, which had staged an amphibious landing on Kismayu on Friday as part of an effort led by the African Union to pacify Somalia.

Shabaab leaders confirmed their pullout via Twitter while warning Kismayu would be "transformed from a peaceful city governed by Islamic Sharia into a battle zone." Shabaab is now left with a tenuous grip on a few small towns in southern and central Somalia, and the loyalty of the local Somali clans.

Comment: This is tonight's good news and a noteworthy achievement in the war against terrorists and pirates. The Kenyans are good soldiers, but they had lots of training, sustained logistics and air support from their Western allies.

End of NightWatch for 1 October.

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