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NightWatch 20100304

NightWatch

For the Night of 4 March 2010

China: For the record. China said it will raise its official defense budget 7.5% this year-the smallest increase in two decades-as the government shifts resources toward other priorities. The small amount of increase officially acknowledged might help alter concerns about the Chinese military buildup of the last decade … might.

Li Zhaoxing, a spokesman for the National People's Congress, said the country would spend nearly $78 billion on its armed forces in 2010, up from $72.5 billion last year. That is a sharply lower growth rate than the nearly 19% average budget rise for the People's Liberation Army annually since 2006.

The Chinese defense budget remains a fraction of actual Chinese defense spending as measured in western counties but even so, is a fraction of US defense spending,

Pakistan: The government today restated its earlier position that it will not surrender to Afghan or US custody the many Afghan Taliban it has taken into custody.

Note: Once Pakistan gives up the high value targets it now holds, it surrenders its leverage as a broker in power sharing arrangements in Kabul between the government and the Taliban. That is a non-starter.

Afghanistan: Follow-up. In compiling fighting data in January and February, NightWatch found a reference in January to Commander Mirwais, the Hezbi Islami insurgent commander in Baghlan Province of northern Afghanistan. Mirwais identified himself in public in January as well as in the Public Broadcasting Service video as the commander of the Hezbi-Islami insurgents in Baghlan. He is a real guy.

The interesting point it that his public statements about fighting were as inflated and erroneous in the January press reports as those in the PBS video. His fighters were no more successful in their 18 January clashes with government forces than in the failed attempt in the video to detonate two IEDs to destroy a government convoy.

Turkey: A U.S. congressional panel voted on Thursday to label as "genocide" the World War One-era massacre of Armenians by Turkish forces, prompting Turkey to recall its ambassador from Washington.

The House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee voted 23-22 to approve the non-binding resolution, which calls on President Barack Obama to ensure U.S. policy formally refers to the killings as genocide.

The vote triggered an immediate condemnation from Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, who recalled Turkey's ambassador to Washington for consultations. Erdogan said he worried the measure would harm Turkish-U.S. ties and efforts by Muslim Turkey and Christian Armenia to end a century of hostility

Comment: There might yet come a time when such a statement did more harm than today's, but it is hard to imagine. The statement is being interpreted as a criticism of the Turkish Army, not the Ottoman empire. The Turkish Army is one of the few political power groups that stands for secular government in Turkey.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee today voted to support Erdogan's long term plan to eliminate secular government in Turkey and replace it with an Islamist regime, apparently without giving that long term end-state any thought. Christians in Turkey face an increasingly stressful future, which the US Congress today made more treacherous. Today's vote constitutes gratuitous meddling to no good end for people alive today in Turkey.

Iraq: Update. Three polling stations in Baghdad were struck by explosions that killed at least 14 people, an apparent attempt to disrupt Sunday's elections. The attacks were launched as security forces and hospital patients cast the first ballots in the parliamentary elections that will choose the next four-year government. The bombings came a day after similar assaults in the northeastern city of Baqubah that killed more than 30 people.

NightWatch Editorial Comment: Cyber defense analysts in the Department of Defense soon will be required to be certified in 150 hacker techniques, according to Gertz in the Washington Times.

Curiously all-source intelligence analysts have no comparable requirements and deny that they can be held accountable for the accuracy or inaccuracy of their judgments. They take this position despite the President's statement on 7 January that analysts are at fault for the systemic failure to prevent or warn of the Christmas bombing.

End of NightWatch for 4 March.

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