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NightWatch 20100714

NightWatch

For the Night of 14 July 2010

US-South Korea: The United States says planned naval exercises with South Korea have been delayed at least until after next week's bilateral ministerial meeting in Seoul.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said there will be no announcement about specific plans for two expected naval exercises until after the American secretaries of state and defense attend the annual meeting with their South Korean counterparts next Wednesday. "The exercises will be discussed at the upcoming 'two-plus-two,' which we've already announced yesterday; so I wouldn't expect for us to have anything on that this week," he said.

The aircraft carrier group USS George Washington will not participate in a joint military exercise with South Korea in the Yellow Sea, but instead will join naval exercises conducted in the Sea of Japan, according to a senior U.S. official, Yonhap reported 14 July. He also denied that the United States changed its plans to send the aircraft carrier to the Yellow Sea because of Chinese opposition to the drills, but that military planners arranged the schedule for strategic purposes.

Comment: Feedback from a brilliant, well-informed and perceptive Reader noted that as long as China holds more than $1.052 trillion in US Treasury bonds, it will get its way on defense issues that the administration considers not vital or needlessly provocative. For now, the Treasury Department rules, except in Afghanistan.

North Korea-UN Command: During this Watch, colonels from both commands met at Panmunjom, according to Yonhap, as scheduled. Stay tuned for results.

India-Pakistan: Today, on the eve of the first talks between foreign ministers since 2008, the Indian Home Affairs Ministry announced that India has obtained evidence that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate played a more significant role in the planning and execution of the November 2008 Mumbai attack than had previously been thought, according to Indian Home Secretary G. K. Pillai, Indian Express reported 14 July.

Pillai said information gathered from interrogations of David Headley, a U.S. citizen accused of helping plan the attack, indicated the ISI had planned the attack with Lashkar-e-Taiba militant Hafiz Saeed "from beginning to end." He added that the ISI was not a peripheral player, but was controlling and coordinating the attack, and that Saeed also knew everything about the attack.

Comment: The Indians have sprung a trap on the Pakistanis. It will be noteworthy if the talks are held at all. Every Indian acceptance of talks with Pakistan since November 2008 has been predicated on a discussion of terrorism first, specifically anti-Indian terrorism from Pakistan. Pakistan has argued for broader talks. Today, India narrowed the focus once again, while seeming to accept the Pakistani terms for more general discussions.

The Indian trap appears to be New Delhi's response to last week's Pakistani ministry of foreign affairs statement denouncing Indian "occupation" of Kashmir. The talks will go nowhere unless Pakistan agrees to deal effectively with ISI support to Pakistan-based terrorists, which is now almost beyond dispute. For India, Pakistan is a state sponsor of terrorism.

Security. The Indian government requested that Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal States establish a "unified command for anti-Naxal operations" and appoint a retired army major general as its leader, Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram said 14 July, Press Trust of India reported. The government will supply the states with helicopters for logistical support and will fund the creation and improvement of 400 police stations in the states.

The Maoist insurgents are called Naxalites after the village from which they began their movement. The New Delhi government has relied on the state governments and police forces to handle the insurgency.  Federal paramilitary police have been committed increasingly to little good effect. This is the first federally-directed request to the States to start treating the insurgency as the regional problem it has become. Significantly, India continues to treat the Naxalites as well as the Kashmiri militants as fundamentally law and order problems.

Afghanistan: The National Security Council agreed in principle on a proposal to establish local defense forces in some parts of the country -- a measure NATO has long advocated, The Associated Press reported 14 July. Afghan President Hamid Karzai's office said the local forces would operate separately from the Afghan National Police under the authority of the Interior Ministry. The Interior Ministry will provide more details of the proposal at the next National Security Council meeting.

A plan for local security forces in Afghanistan is a "stop-gap measure" because there are not enough police forces to provide security, a Pentagon spokesman said today. He also said the program would create "local community policing units," not militias.

Comment: One of the significant problems with such schemes in Iraq was that the Sunni militias were loyal to and dependent on the US Army, not to the government in Baghdad. The militia program was poorly planned in the sense that it did not anticipate the problems of integration with the national armed forces; problems of pay for those not assimilated and enduring questions of loyalty by Sunni militiamen to a Shiite-led government. Those problems did not loom large until the Americans drew down and they are not solved yet.

Karzai and his advisors seem to have a good understanding of the flaws in the Iraq program plus they know that issues of loyalty in Afghanistan are exponentially more complex than in Iraq.

They also have first hand experience in witnessing what happened to the Northern Alliance tribal militias that helped overthrow the Taliban in 2001. Many were disarmed, supposedly. Most fighters were found unfit for integration in a modern military force - most could not read or write. They were sent home, but had hidden their weapons.

For the Northerners -- the Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras -- who stood against the Pashtun Taliban for years, the idea that the Americans would organize, train and arm Pashtun village militias risks returning the Northerners to subservience to the Pashtuns… again. They will not accept that.

Karzai is wise to be skeptical about a program that is not necessarily based on loyalty to the government in Kabul over loyalty to the Americans; cannot guarantee that the militias/policing units will not join the Taliban; operates outside the government's control or financing and could threaten the local agents of the government after the Americans leave. This program easily could reinforce the longstanding rule of insurgency that the government usually supports both sides of the fight.

Iran-US: Iranian nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri has left the United States for his country, an Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman said 13 July, ISNA reported. Amiri was "seen off by" the head of the Iranian Interests Section in Washington, the spokesman said.

Note: Cumulatively, the recent press statements by all sides and Iranian behavior indicate this man was an Iranian double agent.

Iraq: US Army General Ray Odierno, the commander of United States forces in Iraq, said Tuesday that Iranian-backed Shiite militias might increase attacks on American military bases this summer as thousands of American soldiers begin leaving Iraq.

"There has been some intelligence of Iranian surrogates attempting to attack U.S. bases," General Odierno said at a Baghdad news briefing. "For years, these groups have been talking about that they are forcing the U.S. to leave. It's not necessarily what's reality; it's what they're able to use propaganda-wise, and I feel they think this would be a huge propaganda tool for them in the future."

The Shiite militia named by General Odierno, Kataib Hezbollah, is one of several armed Shiite groups in Iraq that the United States says has ties to Iran, a charge the Iranian government denies.

It is difficult to understand the logic of Iranian-backed militias attacking departing Americans, except possibly in the Asian notion of victory. Pro-Iranian political parties are now destined to be consequential in all future governments in Baghdad, if not actually in full control. Attacks against departing Americans only make sense in that Asian sense of humiliating an enemy as he withdraws.

Turkey-US-Iraq: A senior Turkish government official said the United States has supported Ankara's pursuit of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) beyond real-time intelligence sharing, Today's Zaman reported 14 July.

According to the report, "The United States has cleared Turkish jets to enter Iraqi airspace for three weeks as requested, an unnamed U.S. official said."

The unnamed Turkish official said Washington is more amenable to lending Turkey support in its fight against the PKK because Ankara has shown the United States that it no longer considers the Kurdistan Regional Government a threat.

Comment: Some critical facts about sovereignty seem to have been omitted from the news account. As published the story states that some US officials or military officers gave Turkey approval to fly in Iraqi airspace. That would mean the US agreed to not shoot down Turkish air force combat aircraft, but the Turks also would need to get the approval of the sovereign power, namely the government in Baghdad. Iraqi approval was not mentioned, without which US approval has no significance in international law. Clearly something is missing in the story.

Israel-Libya-Gaza Strip: Update. The Libyan ship carrying aid for Gaza entered Egypt's El Arish port and is expected to begin unloading cargo, a port official said, Reuters reported 14 July. The ship's medical supplies and passengers bound for Gaza will enter through the Rafah border and food bound for Gaza will enter through the Al Awja border, the official said.

The captain told the Israelis that he would not unload his cargo at an Israeli port. The Israeli navy was more than willing to escort the ship to the Egyptian port. An incident at sea has thus been avoided.

Uganda-Burundi-Somalia: Uganda and Burundi both issued independent statements 14 July affirming their commitments to keeping their troops in Somalia following the 11 July attacks in Kampala by Somali group al Shabaab that left 74 dead.

The organization of East African states that supports the African Union Mission in Somalia promised to send 2,000 more troops soon. If the Africans stand firm, al Shabaab might yet receive much more than it bargained for.

End of NightWatch for 14 July.

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