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NightWatch 20130110

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NightWatch

For the night of 10 January 2013

India-Pakistan: Pakistan accused Indian troops of killing one of its soldiers on 10 July in the central part of the Line of Control in the Poonch District of Kashmir. Pakistani military officials released few details about the incident, saying only a soldier assigned to a post near the Line of Control was killed by "unprovoked firing" from Indian troops.

The Pakistan Army closed the border crossing point in the district of the security incidents to Indian civilian trucks on 10 January, stranding about 25 cargo trucks carrying perishables.

An Indian Army statement claimed that Indian Army troops only fired in retaliation after Pakistani soldiers fired on them. "Our troops retaliated and an intermittent exchange of gunfire is continuing," Indian Army spokesman Colonel R.K. Palta said. "It's yet another cease-fire violation by the Pakistani troops."

India rejected a Pakistani request for a UN investigation of the incident by the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP). The 112 members of UNMOGIP are based in Pakistan under a truce agreement signed in Karachi in 1949. India no longer considers the UN has jurisdiction in Jammu and Kashmir state because the UN sponsored ceasefire has been replaced by the bilateral ceasefire of November 2003.

Comment: The Times of India reported this as the third violation since Sunday and the fourth in the past ten days.

India opposes internationalization of security incidents because it considers the status of Jammu and Kashmir settled. Pakistan wants UN meddling because it wants UN backing for its claim that ownership of Indian Kashmir is not settled. The Pakistani claim remains a fundamental impediment to peaceful relations on the sub-continent.

Muslims in Indian Kashmir have many valid grievances against the government of India, not the least of which is that Jammu and Kashmir state has one of the lowest literacy rates among India's 28 states and that the large number of Indian Army and other security forces in the state stifles tourism and investment. The Hindu central government has tended to neglect the state in the past six decades. Nevertheless, the Indian Kashmiri Muslims do not support merger with Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.

It is still not clear what is driving the latest spurt of attacks. There are no indications of increased military activity all along the Line of Control which could be a precursor to a general war. Most activity has remained in the Poonch District, which suggests some local issue.

The good news is that political leaders in Islamabad and New Delhi stated today that periodic troubles along the Line of Control will not be allowed to derail the course of improved relations between Pakistan and India. These statements convey a much more mature attitude about bilateral relations which are larger and more important that incidents along the Line of Control.

The elected political leaders apparently share the conviction that they will not be whipsawed by local military incidents or interests whose apparent purpose is to strain relations between the two states to serve domestic agendas, such as maintaining high military budgets despite a reduced threat environment.

Afghanistan: US Defense Secretary Panetta had talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the Pentagon on Thursday. Panetta told the media the two countries were "at the last chapter" in their effort to rebuild Afghanistan's institutions and security. Panetta said, "We've come a long way towards a shared goal of establishing a nation that you and we can be proud of, one that never again becomes a safe haven for terrorism."

Comment: Panetta was playing to the gallery… or the mainstream American media. The situation in Afghanistan is not so rosy that anyone should be proud or thumping his or her chest or doing a victory lap.

A NightWatch special analysis of the fighting in the month of November 2012 indicates Taliban or anti-government fighting units are present and occasionally active in 33 of 34 provinces of Afghanistan. The fire fights and roadside bombings occurred in 142 of just over 400 districts in Afghanistan.

The number and frequency of security incidents are very much lower than in 2011. So are casualties because most come from roadside bombs - IEDs. On the other hand, the anti-government fighters continue to demonstrate they are present in nearly every province.

Prior to 2011, the Taliban were trying to expand beyond the 12 or 13 provinces of the Pashtun south and east. During 2011 they succeeded in expanding into the north and west.

The Germans reported no combat casualties in Konduz Province in far northern Afghanistan in 2012. The Republic of Korea also reported no combat casualties for its forces in Parwan Province, north of Kabul, in 2012. Both transferred security to Afghan forces last year. The fighting data, on the other hand, indicate the Taliban were active in both provinces, but against the Afghan forces. Afghan Army casualties in 2012 were higher than for any prior year. Afghan police casualties remained high, as usual.

The data in 2012 shows the anti-government fighters remain a nationwide threat, even after the US surge. The reduced level of serious security incidents is ambiguous because the Taliban strategy has been to minimize direct fire fights, wait for the enemy to depart, and retake the land after the enemy leaves.

The most obvious inference is that the Taliban are facilitating the departure of the NATO and allied forces by avoiding direct fire fights, while showing they are not defeated. That and a more cautious program of NATO and Western military activity to minimize casualties in anticipation of departure account for an improvement in daily fighting.

The security situation is in transition and neither side is risking manpower, pending the departure of major Western and Allied combat forces in the next year.

Central African Republic: Update. Central African Republic's government and the Seleka rebel coalition have agreed to a temporary cease-fire deal during negotiations taking place in Gabon, unnamed rebel sources said on 10 January.

Mali: Fighters loyal to the Islamists in northern Mali clashed with government forces for the first time in nearly a year, seizing the town of Konna, as part of a southward rebel push against government forces. For the first time, they have entered southern Mali.

The government report of the same encounter claimed that clashes between the Malian soldiers and the armed combatants from AQIM (Al-Qa'ida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb), the MUJAO ( Movement for Unity and the Jihad in West Africa) and Ansar al-Din resulted in several terrorists and Islamists killed, with the confiscation of their vehicles by the Malian Army, according to sources in Konna on 9 January.

Comment: The Islamists probably have the fighting strength to take Bamako, but might be delayed by logistics problems. Seizure of Konna indicates an intention to capture Bamako before an international force can assemble and prepare for a counterattack. This is a significant escalation because it indicates the Islamists have decided that control of all of Mali is better than trying to defend its northern two-thirds. African and UN plans to retake the north just got thrown into a cocked hat, as the saying goes. Al Qaida will soon have another safe haven.

The Malian Army's claims appear to be face saving, in the aftermath of a failure to stop the Islamist rebel advance.

End of NightWatch for 10 January.

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