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NightWatch 20150304

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For the night of 4 March 2015

South Korea: In Seoul today, a man used a razor blade to slash the US Ambassador to South Korea today in a protest of US and South Korean annual military exercises and to call for reunification. The ambassador was cut, but his injuries are not life threatening.

Comment: The South Korean authorities are properly cautious in providing few details about the attacker, who is in custody.  At this time, no evidence links the attacker to North Korea. 

Circumstantially, South Korea hosts probably thousands of North Korean sleeper agents, who live far better in South Korea than their families do back home. The language the attacker used matches the two dominant themes in North Korean propaganda against the Allies. Finally, an attack on the US Ambassador falls well-within the range of deranged, risk-taking actions that Kim Jong Un would order, like ordering the sinking of a South Korean patrol ship in 2010 for no apparent reason. If Kim did not order it, he certainly would approve of the attack, as part of his retaliation strategy.

Afghanistan: Afghan security forces killed dozens of militants in a military operation to rescue a group of civilian hostages who were kidnapped in southern Afghanistan on 23 February.

"The rescue operation is ongoing," General Abdul Hameed, commander of the 205th Afghan army corps operating in the south of the country, told the press. "We have killed 48 insurgents and 21 of them are foreign fighters." The operation is taking place in Kakar District, also known as Khak e Afghan District of Zabul Province.

Comment: Hazaras protested in Kabul today over the lack of action to rescue the bus passengers, a bit prematurely. The operation appears to be a success, but the authorities have not reported the status of the hostages. The Afghans almost always blame foreign fighters for acts of terror.

Iraq: A large pro-Iraqi government force has begun an offensive to retake the city of Tikrit from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Press accounts said that pro-Iranian Badr force militiamen are leading the attack. They also stated that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force commander, General Soleimani, is advising or leading the effort. Most of the pro-government fighters are Shiites, who are operating in Sunni territory. The US is not providing air or other support, according to press sources.

Comment: Multiple press outlets have covered the detailed information available in open sources. This operation reportedly was not planned with US assistance. A large predominantly Shia force is attempting to take a Sunni city.

In all recent Iraqi engagements, US air support has been limited, but important to a successful outcome. This operation represents a potential watershed event and an Iranian challenge to the US solution for tactical military success. If it succeeds, the leadership role of an Iranian general would suggest that US support might not be essential.

The Iranians will coach the Iraqis to continue to beg for US materiel as essential, but will cut the US out of any significant contributions on the direction of operations. Thus the stakes are high for Iran and the US about who will guide security operations in Iraq. The Iranians appear to be taking over.

Nigeria: On Monday, Chadian forces recaptured the town of Dikwa from Boko Haram. Late reporting indicates that Boko Haram killed hundreds of civilians before retreating. The Chadians lost one soldier killed and 34 wounded.

Boko Haram left hundreds of people dead Monday before fleeing Chadian forces which regained control of Dikwa, a town occupied by the militants for weeks, said Chad's military spokesman Col. Azem Bermandoua.

In a separate operation on Monday, Nigerian soldiers Monday repelled an attack by Boko Haram on Konduga. They claimed to have killed more than 70 insurgents. Boko Haram invaded the town between herds of cattle and a suicide bomber driving an explosives-laden car. The military had been warned and were well prepared to drive back the insurgents, a spokesman said.

The recent successes of the Francophone armies have annoyed the always bombastic Nigerians, who once again have declined to cooperate. Nigerian politicians griped about the civilian deaths at Dikwa, hinting that the Chadians were at fault.

Officials from Chad, Niger and Cameroon say the lack of cooperation from Nigeria has for months hampered efforts to put together a regional taskforce against Boko Haram.

Nigeria has imposed tight restrictions on their supposed allies.. They include limits on hot pursuit, on how deep they can operate in Nigeria and insist on allowing Nigerians to take credit for any successes.

Comment: This is vintage Nigerian military and political leadership behavior, dating to the Biafran civil war. Nigerian leaders start scrambling for credit and recognition just when the security situation starts to get better. They brag and security conditions relapse.

Nigerian political leaders in Abuja got seriously interested in fighting Boko Haram when leaders in the Francophone countries started to demand action. The incompetent Nigerian performance was causing ripple effects that damaged the economies of the neighboring countries. Chad, Niger and Cameroon have deployed nearly 15,000 soldiers to the fight. The Nigerians never disclose their numbers.

It is important to note that the Francophone countries with limited resources and some French and US advisory help rolled back Boko Haram in two months. What is striking is how easy it was and how limited were Boko Haram's actual military capabilities, vice its propensity for barbarism, against trained, disciplined and equipped military forces. The Chadians have eclipsed Nigerians as the go-to military power in west central and western Africa.

Special Administrative Announcement

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To our valued Readers, we are extending the enrollment date for current subscribers to 31 March 2015 during which time you will continue to receive NightWatch free of charge. In addition to a complimentary two week sign-up period, you will also receive a 40% discount on the introductory monthly cost of $3.49 (plus applicable tax) if you sign up for an introductory subscription at a cost of $24.99 (plus applicable tax).

As the period for subscription nears, we shall publish directions about how to sign up and make payment, starting 16 March. NightWatch has been a free service for eight years. We hope through subscriptions we can continue to provide this service for years to come.

End of NightWatch for 4 March.

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