For the night of 27 August 2014
Afghanistan: Dr. Abdullah's campaign team withdrew from the voter fraud audit today. The UN monitoring team then asked Ashraf Ghani's team to withdraw, while the UN and the election commission continued the so-called audit.
Comment: The international monitors botched this election. They did not monitor the voting or the ballot boxes in ways to safeguard against fraud. Abdullah's people claim the election commission has no interest in invalidating ballots and has no transparent procedure in place. The so-called audit degenerated into a simple recount that Ashraf Ghani will win.
Secretary Kerry said it did not matter who won as long as the election was credible. The Afghans clearly disagreed, but were too polite to contradict him. Now there is no winner; no credible election; a Taliban offensive that is taking advantage of the leadership vacuum and another US-allied country in danger of fragmentation.
For Abdullah, this would be the second time an election was stolen by the Pashtuns through organized and officially sanctioned fraud. He would have beaten Karzai in the last election, but for massive ballot box stuffing.
The lesson is that Afghanistan is yet another country -- like Libya, Egypt, and Iraq - that is not ready for Western-style democracy. It is in danger of a resumption of ethnic civil war or of breaking apart, like Libya and Iraq.
Syria-Israel: Syrian rebels, including fighters from the al-Qaida affiliated al-Nusra Front, seized control of a border crossing post on the Golan Heights on Wednesday after clashes with Syrian government forces.
Comment: The capture of the post is symbolic, more than practical or defendable. Lightly defended border posts in Syria are vulnerable to overrun by larger bands of hostile fighters.
Border posts on the periphery of a country are indefensible all the time. Border posts are peacetime installations. They are expendable trip wires in wartime. Thus the Islamists chose to waste resources and energy on symbolic victories that ultimately make themselves targets.
During this Watch, Syria fighter jets began attacking the captured border post and killed six Islamic militants.
Israel: The ceasefire held today.
Special comment: Pundits in international media are debating who won the third Gaza War. The level of sophistry is entertaining. The prevailing judgment is that nobody won.
A few facts are relevant. Between a quarter and a third of Gaza City and other towns has been reduced to rubble. About 2,200 Palestinians died and 10,000 were injured. More than 300,000 people are now homeless, according to the UN. The estimated cost of the infrastructure and property damage in Gaza exceeds $5 billion. Actual reconstruction costs will be much higher. There are serious power outages and water shortages. The population is at risk from cholera and other diseases that emerge after a breakdown of the public health system. The Hamas government is broke and an international dependency. Israel will be a major benefactor. Facts such as these define defeat in any war zone, but this is the Middle East.
The Israel Defense Forces now estimate the Palestinians have fired or lost 80% of their rocket arsenal. For all their heroics, Hamas fighters proved they could not defend their country. That is another definition of defeat. Palestinian survival is less a victory than a gift of the IDF because Hamas could not prevent the destruction of Gaza.
In any other theater of war, the party sustaining the damage that the Gazans received would have surrendered two weeks ago. Prime Minister Netanyahu let them off the hook. But that does not negate the military defeat the Palestinians sustained.
On the other hand, it is the Middle East. Israel now has the challenge of ensuring that Hamas and Islamic Jihad cannot rearm or rebuild the tunnel network. Its neglect of those monitoring tasks led to the third Gaza War.
Ukraine: International news services continue to report new fighting on the coast of the Azov Sea. The concentration of activity near Ukraine's southeast border with Russia strengthens the inference that Russia has intervened more directly and more openly.
Comment: Russia continues to deny that Russian forces are fighting in Ukraine. The change in strategic direction and the increased use of armor backed by artillery, however, strongly suggest Russian regulars have been committed to the fight, albeit in mufti.
One positive note is that Russia is not supporting the break-up of Ukraine. Foreign Minister Lavrov repeated the Russian position that The Russian leaders do not want a divided Ukraine. They appear to want a federal Ukraine that includes a secure over land route from Rostov to Crimea.
End of NightWatch for 27 August.
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