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NightWatch 20100726

NightWatch

For the Night of 26 July 2010

South Korea-China-North Korea: For the record. An 81-year-old South Korean prisoner of war from the Korean War is known to have been sent back to North Korea after having been arrested in China in August last year.

The POW fought in the Korean War in the 3rd division of the South Korean Army's 5th Corps and was captured by North Korean forces in 1952. After years in captivity, he managed to escape North Korea with the help of a South Korean group and a "refugee broker." The refugee broker who had helped the soldier escape reported him to Chinese police after arguing with the South Korean group over money

The POW was arrested on 24 August last year, eight days after he fled North Korea, according to Dong-A Ilbo.

A source from the South Korean government told The Dong-A Ilbo Monday, "The government has made tremendous diplomatic efforts (to bring him back) but he was eventually sent back to North Korea."

South Korea had contacted Chinese diplomatic authorities more than 50 times since the South Korean soldier was detained in China (to request his handover to South Korea), but Beijing failed to inform Seoul of his location and health condition. South Korea reportedly pushed China on the matter to the point that it caused diplomatic conflict.

Comment: This report is significant because it and others like it establish that prisoners of war from the Korean War are still alive in captivity in North Korea. At least 8,000 American soldiers are unaccounted from the Korean War and some have been seen in North Korea - some were pulling plows like oxen near Haeryong. They are not defectors or traitors, according to high reliable eyewitnesses.

A second point from this incident is that it is increasingly typical of Chinese treatment of its former tributary states. The North Korean prison system is porous and up for sale. When a prisoner escapes to China, China also wants to be paid to move the person to South Korea because China refuses to give refuge to any escapees from North Korea.

There are no refugee camps along the Chinese side of the Yalu River. If a Korean lacks proper credentials, China hands that person to the North Korean police who are permitted to operate on the Chinese side of the River.

North Korea-US: North Korea will continue to consider nuclear deterrence as a possible countermeasure to increasing nuclear threats from the United States, according to Korean People's Army (KPA) Vice Marshal Kim Yong Chun, as reported by the Korean Central News Agency on 26 July. Strengthening nuclear power is the sovereign right of North Korea, Kim said, adding that any war initiated by the United States or South Korea would be met with North Korea's "nuclear deterrence.

Comment: Vice Marshal Kim is the First Vice Chairman of the National Defense Commission, under Kim Chong-il. His remarks suggest North Korea is backing down a trifle from its weekend threats. The location of the major exercises in the Sea of Japan probably reassured him that the US does not intend to use this exercise as cover for attack preparations, which is doctrinal with the North Koreans.

India: For the record. The Indian Finance Ministry on 26 July approved a restructuring plan for the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), the Press Trust of India reported. Home Affairs Minister P. Chidambaram said the modernization plan, which was proposed by the Home Ministry in 2009, gives the ITBP 15 new battalions, three recruit training centers, a counterinsurgency and jungle warfare school, a high-altitude medical training center and additional materiel. The plan also allows ITBP to recruit additional support staff, ITBP chief R. K. Bhatia said. ITBP plans to conduct more short-range patrols along the borders, unnamed sources said.

Comment: The Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) is a paramilitary force established on 24 October 1962 for providing security along India's border with Chinese-occupied Tibet. It has more than 60,000 policemen in 55 battalions which areresponsible for 2,115 kilometers of border in the Himalayas. The expansion should take it to about 75,000 personnel, about 10,000 fewer than the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), which guards the mountain borders with Nepal and Bhutan. These two are the largest police forces, specializing in mountain police and combat duties.

The ITBP and the SSB are components of the more than half-million strong Central Paramilitary Forces which would come directly under the command of the Indian Armed Forces in wartime.

From time to time, Indian media will report piecemeal about upgrades to various forces along the China border. There are three kinds: Indian armed forces, Central Police Organizations and Central Paramilitary Forces, of which the ITBP is one of the most elite units.

The significance of today's report is that it reinforces that all forces along the China border from Kashmir to Burma are being upgraded. Upgrades to Indian Army units were featured items in Indian reporting last summer.

NightWatch uses as a predictive hypothesis that India expects to confront China in less than two decades. In some scenarios, this confrontation is part of a two front war with Pakistan, according to Indian strategists. Several years ago the Singh government ordered the start of long term preparations for a showdown.

Pakistan: Yesterday, Al-Jazirah carried a three-minute live satellite interview with retired Pakistani Brigadier Imtiyaz Ahmad, former head of Pakistan's Intelligence Bureau, in Islamabad, to speak about the NATO operations in Afghanistan and Taliban attacks. Excerpts are repeated for their effect.

Asked "why does the power of the Taliban increase with the increase in military operations against it," Ahmad, speaking in English with voice-over translation into Arabic, says: "Actually, we should not have any doubt that the Americans and the NATO forces have faced huge failures in their war in Afghanistan and have not been able to achieve any clear or big victories in this war. It is noticed that almost 75 percent of Afghanistan is under the Taliban's control, while only 25 percent of the land is under the Karzai government's control, and these also are not spared from Taliban attacks."

He adds: "We should also notice that during the last two months, NATO losses increased significantly, consequently, big disagreements emerged between the US Administration and US military commanders -- and in particular NATO commanders. We have been faced with a huge international incident, which is the dismissal of General McChrystal. I do not think that the new commander, despite his knowledge of the nature of the country, will be able to make any significant change in the war strategy implemented thus far."

Asked "how can the Taliban use this recent development represented in the missing US soldiers," Ahmad says: "These incidents prove that the Taliban has started to obtain a certain edge over the NATO war strategy; moreover, the Taliban has beaten NATO in the intelligence information collection race."

Comment: This interview does not present an accurate description of conditions in Afghanistan by any measure, but it is what Pakistanis regularly hear about Afghanistan.

Ahmad is a discredited brigadier who was convicted for involvement in a plot to overthrow Benazir Bhutto when she was Prime Minister in the 1990s. Musharraf suspended his sentence by enacting the National Reconciliation Ordinance, which has since been judged unconstitutional. He is not an authority on Afghanistan, but he is viscerally anti-US.

The point is that a significant number of prominent Pakistani generals, who benefited from US associations while in uniform, in retirement become bitterly anti-American. They have influence in shaping public attitudes against the US. Al Jazirah gives them a platform.

Russia-Iran: The Russian Foreign Ministry said on 26 July that Iranian President Ahmadi-Nejad's recent anti-Russian comments are irresponsible and unacceptable, referring to the statement that Moscow is taking cues from the West about Tehran's nuclear program, RIA Novosti reported.

The Russian ministry called Moscow's stance objective, constructive and independent and called on Tehran to provide specific solutions to the issue. The ministry said on its website that Moscow encourages continued talks between Iran, Brazil and Turkey about a possible exchange of low-grade uranium. Brazil and Turkey should be invited to the Vienna Group meeting in September, according to the ministry, and Russia looks forward to multilateral talks with Iran as soon as possible.

Comment: This summer the Russians made a strategic reassessment that has altered Russian tactics in dealing with Iran. The Russians have never trusted Persia and steadfastly have worked to prevent or hinder the emergence of a strong Iranian military force, under the Shah and under the Ayatollahs.

Under Putin and Medvedev, Russian behavior appears to have been predicated on a strategic assessment that Iran has no nuclear weapons program and that engagement with Tehran plus trade connections and arms sales would protect Russian strategic interests. For old hands, the notion that Russia would tolerate a nuclear armed Iran is inconsistent with a thousand years of Russian-Persian history.

On the other hand, the notion that Russia could profit from Iranian trade, use contacts to monitor Iranian activity and manipulate the government in Tehran to serve Russian interests of annoying the US and making money is quintessentially Russian. These are tactics for dealing with and containing a troublesome neighbor. They never signified that Russia would condone another nuclear weapons state on its southern flank.

As long as the Russians rejected US and Israeli evidence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program, the engagement tactics were adequate and acted as spoilers to US strategic dominance. This began to change during the deliberations for the most recent UN Security Council Resolution increasing sanctions against Iran.

Open sources lack details on the substance of US consultations and arm-twisting with Russia at the UN. Whatever was said or demonstrated has proven to be sufficient to change Russia's assessment of Iran's long term intentions.

The Russian leaders are not saying Iran has a nuclear weapons program now, as others argue. They are accusing Iran of moving in that direction, towards a foreseeable end state that creates an intolerable threat to Russia - a nuclear armed Iran.

This reassessment, manifest in much sterner Russian policy statements and behavior towards Iran, indicates the Russians have corroborated at least parts of the US evidence plus the US interpretation of the evidence, so that they are now taking a much more confrontational position towards Iran. This change in Russian attitude towards Iran is confirmed by the latest exchanges between the leaders in the past several days.

The Russians also are much less critical in public of anti-ballistic missile defenses that the US is installing in Poland. It might be the most important diplomatic and intelligence achievement of the Us Administration to date.

Reactions to Wikileaks on Afghanistan:

One of the more unfortunate decisions by the various media is to describe the leaked documents as the Afghanistan Log. The word connotes images of care, authority, and deliberation in recording events, as in a Captain's log. The leaked reports are not that kind of log at all. As noted previously, a field report is not proof of facts that it relates, but that is how some media are reporting: it's in the Afghanistan Log therefore it must be true. Nonsense.

All reports have date-time groups on them, but analysts select for retention some reports from the thousands they read, based on criteria they establish for what is important and what is probably reliable. The reports themselves cumulatively expose an intelligence analyst's level of insight and experience.

The selection criteria by which these 92,201 reports were saved to be leaked instead of millions of others, indicate the leaker had little insight about what is important and no ability to filter obvious fabrications. An experienced hand would have discarded most of what has been reported to date. But public disclosure of even junk evokes strong reactions when a conflict is not popular.

Pakistan: "The people of Pakistan and its security forces, including the ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence], have rendered enormous sacrifices against militancy and terrorism. "Our contributions have been acknowledged by the international community, in particular by the United States", a Foreign Office statement issued here on Monday said.

"As underlined by the US National Security Advisor in his statement on Wikileaks yesterday (Sunday), the ongoing counterterrorism cooperation between Pakistan and the US will continue with a view to defeating our common enemies", the statement maintained.

Germany: The German defense ministry on Monday [ 26 July] criticized the leak of around 92,000 classified US military documents on the Afghanistan war, but said the news value was rather limited. The German news magazine Spiegel as well as The New York Times and the Guardian newspapers at the weekend printed excerpts of the documents, which were released by the Wikileaks website.

"Obtaining and releasing documents, some of them secret, on such a scale is a highly questionable practice since it could affect the national security of NATO allies and the whole NATO mission," defense ministry spokesman Christian Dienst said. "We're in the process of analyzing the material so as to find out whether the security of our German troops on the ground is affected in any way."

Sweden: The Swedish force in Afghanistan is named several times in the secret documents leaked to Wikileaks. The Swedish Armed Forces will now investigate whether the leak could affect Swedes' safety or the situation in Afghanistan.

Among other things, there are several reports on attacks by resistance fighters on Swedish troops in Afghanistan and reports of Swedish ordnance disposal technicians being called in on several occasions to defuse suspected bombs. "We do not yet know whether the leaked information will impact the situation for the Swedish force over there, but that is something we will be taking a closer look at. Looking at things like this is naturally one of our functions," said Torbjorn Gustafsson of Armed Forces Headquarters public relations staff.

Norway: Classified documents that were recently leaked by Wikileaks mention how Norwegian soldiers killed an Afghan. The military has not managed to find anyone who remembers the episode.

On 29 November last year Norwegian soldiers are said to have killed a man who had something that was perceived as a dangerous object in his hand. Afterward, it came out that what the man held was a flashlight.

"I did a double-take when I read about that. I couldn't remember this episode. That's why I got in touch with the man who was deputy commander of the unit in question in Afghanistan. He can't remember this, either. We have talked with a number of people now and not encountered anyone who knows about the episode. That's a little odd," says John Espen Lien, acting communications chief of the Armed Forces, to [the Norwegian news agency] NTB

Helge Luras, an Afghanistan expert and adviser at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (Nupi), thinks the 92,000 secret-classified documents on the war in Afghanistan which have been made public by Wikileaks could come from centrally placed sources in Washington. "I think this could be a leak from someone highly placed in Washington. That is speculation, of course, but the leak is so extensive and comes at a point when the debate about the strategy in Afghanistan is so intense that it can't be ruled out that this is a deliberate leak."

UK: The government "laments" the leak of documents allegedly revealing cases of Afghan civilians killed by UK troops, Downing Street said. Reports say the Wikileaks website obtained more than 90,000 US military files and made them available to newspapers, including the Guardian.

The records include references to at least 21 incidents involving UK troops. The Ministry of Defence said it had been unable to verify the claims and it would not speculate on specific cases.

Canada: Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon on Monday said he was "concerned" for the safety of Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan following the leak of some 90,000 secret US military files. "Our government is concerned obviously that operational leaks could endanger the lives of our men and women in Afghanistan," Cannon told reporters.

End of NightWatch for 26 July.

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