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NightWatch 20100414

NightWatch

For the Night of 14 April 2010

North Korea: Kim Chong-il on Wednesday, 14 April, issued an order promoting 100 generals, the second largest promotion of generals since he took office, the Korean Central News Agency reported, in honor of his Father's birthday on Thursday.

Comment: The last promotion on this scale was in 1997, when Kim promoted 129 generals as part of his effort to use bribery and promotions to buy military loyalty because he never served in the armed forces. The timing of this promotion indicates that whoever is in charge senses the need to build military loyalty through mass promotions as the regime prepares for the leadership succession.

Once again, this oriental despotism is asking its armed forces to follow the military leadership of a pampered youth who grew up in Switzerland and never served in the armed forces. He is known as the young general or young captain, depending on the translation. Any military support is derivative from Kim Il-sung and diluted by Kim Chong-il., except for the bribes and promotions..

North Korea has annual promotions for generals and is top heavy with flag officers in comparison to South Korea, for example. As a Soviet- style armed forces, the Korean People's Army has a different doctrine for officers than western armies. Senior officers often perform tasks that lower ranking officers and even senior enlisted men perform in modern military forces not based on a Soviet model.

Thailand: The first day of the lunar New Year's celebration passed without demonstrations. Red Shirt opposition protestors called off a march to the Army barracks where Prime Minister Abhisit has taken refuge, apparently in response to widespread popular pressure in Bangkok to celebrate the New Year.

Protest leaders said they will stay at main protest sites during the Songkran Festival. They will decide how to step up protests after festivities are over. Deputy Prime Minister Suthep ordered police to hunt for "terrorists," stating that Thailand can't let them walk freely in the country. He said there is enough evidence from still pictures and video footage that "terrorists" can be identified carrying M-16 or AK-47 rifles.

The New Year's celebration has extended the Abhisit administration on life support.

India-Pakistan:  A couplet.

      Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today ruled out serious discussions with Pakistan until it took "credible steps" to bring the perpetrators of the 2008 Mumbai attacks to justice, Reuters reported. Singh said that if Pakistan does that, India will be happy to begin talking once again about all issues. He said he exchanged pleasantries twice with Pakistan's Prime Minister Gilani on the sidelines of the two-day nuclear security summit in Washington, but they had not covered serious issues during their brief encounters.

     Pakistani Prime Minister Gilani said that Indian Prime Minister Singh accepted an invitation to visit Pakistan, Geo News and other services reported.

Both are accurate. Singh accepted an invitation to go to Pakistan when Pakistan is willing to discuss terrorist attacks originating from Pakistan. Gilani dropped the condition.

Pakistan-US:  Another couplet.

     The United States needs to do more in the fight against militants, Pakistan Army Colonel Nauman Saeed, leader of Pakistani army operations in Bajaur tribal agency, said 14 April, Reuters reported. Saeed said he was frustrated that U.S. forces did not act against 700 militants who escaped from Bajaur into Konar Province, Afghanistan. Konar borders Bajaur Agency. Saeed said he feels let down at the U.S. pullback of troops from remote areas in Afghanistan.

     In Afghanistan, the US command announced today that American troops have pulled out of the Korengal Valley of Pech District, Konar Province. It took 84 helicopter trips to extract the small US force.

General McChrystal said the presence of US forces had proven to be "an irritant to the people."  He also said the region is not expected to become a haven for the Taliban and allow them to launch attacks beyond the valley.

Comment: McChrystal's strategy is to defend the 80 districts that have significant populations and apparently be less aggressive in defending the other 120 or so districts that have serious security problems.

The significance of the couplet is that the US withdrawal seems to make the case for the Pakistani allegations of inadequate support. The possibility that 700 fighters from Bajaur Agency entered Konar Province without detection, much less interception, suggests a serious breakdown in coordination, intelligence and operations, if the report is accurate. If the Pakistanis expected they were herding the Taliban fighters into a US killing zone, something miscarried badly.

Russia-Kyrgyzstan:  Russia announced it will give Kyrgyzstan a $20 million grant and the Russian Agricultural Bank will extend a $30 million subsidized loan, Ros Business Consulting reported 14 April.

Prime Minister Putin said the aid will be given to Kyrgyzstan by 17 April and that Russia and Kyrgyzstan are prepared to consider Bishkek's monetary and credit policy in the near future.

Russian President Medvedev said Kyrgyzstan is on the verge of civil war and could develop into a "second Afghanistan," Reuters reported 14 April. Medvedev, who was speaking at the Brookings Institution in Washington, said the task is to help the Kyrgyz people find a calm way out of this crisis and suggested that ousted President Bakiyev formally step down to help defuse the situation.

Note:  Bakiyev said yesterday, 13 April, that he is willing to consider resignation if he has safe conduct out of Kyrgyzstan and the security of his family is guaranteed.

Egypt:  The banned Muslim Brotherhood said it backs former IAEA head Mohamed El Baradei's call for free elections, constitutional reform and the abolishment of emergency law, Reuters reported 14 April.

Mohamed Saad el-Katatni, head of the Brotherhood parliamentary bloc, said they have popular support that can be mobilized to back El Baradei's reform efforts. Katatni said the Brotherhood will wait to support a possible presidential run by El Baradei until they see a full platform.

Note:  By its public endorsement, the Brotherhood ensured El Baradei has no chance of winning a presidential election. Such a result is probably the intended consequence of the Brotherhood. It has no expectation of political reform or free and fair elections, with or without El Baradei. It also has no interest in supporting any political movement that would make the Mubarak administration look democratic, when it is not. The worse it is, the better it is for the Brotherhood.

BelarusToo good to omit. President Lukashenko called the recent events in Kyrgyzstan an "unconstitutional coup" in an interview on Belarusian radio, BBC reported. Lukashenko expressed concern about the possibility of a similar event occurring in Belarus.

Mexico:  The Houston Chronicle reported today that more than 22,700 people have died in drug related violence in Mexico in the past three years, since President Calderon took office and sent army troops and federal police to fight the cartels along the US border. That is more than 20 people per day, every day for three years. The new number is higher substantially over the previous estimate of 18,000. The Office of the President briefed the new data to the Mexican Senate today, 14 April.

Drug-related gang violence killed more than 9,600 people nationwide in 2009 and at least 3,300 so far this year, the report said.

Ciudad Juarez, bordering El Paso, has by far been the most violent area for drug violence, with more than 4,300 killed in the city of fewer than 1.5 million in the past two years. Other particularly violent Mexican states include Sinaloa, Michoacan, Guerrero and Durango, where drug syndicates are battling for control of smuggling routes and market access to U.S. and Mexican consumers of illegal drugs. Violence also has spiked this year in Morelos.

Mexico is much more violent than the war zone of Afghanistan.

End of NightWatch for 14 April.

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