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NightWatch 20110721

NightWatch

For the Night of 21 July 2011

Thailand: Update. The Supreme Court rejected a petition to have the 3 July election nullified. One of the losing parties claimed some 2 million voters were denied voting rights. The Court ruled that individuals have no standing to petition to overturn an election. The Election Commission earlier rejected a similar petition

Comment: If the Royal Palace wanted the election invalidated, the Commission or the Court would have found grounds. The Bangkok elite apparently has decided the country has had enough political unrest. The elite wants political stability, even if that means tolerating the Thaksin family and the Red Shirts again, in the expectation that stability will boost tourism, investment and economic growth. Stability and predictability are good for business.

India-Pakistan: For the record. Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar will meet in New Delhi on 27 July to discuss the countries' peace process, according to the Indian External Affairs Ministry. The latest terrorist attack in Mumbai is likely to be a featured agenda item.

Comment: It is significant that India has not broken the dialogue, despite the Mumbai attack. India is taking no action that adds strain the Pakistan's weak civilian leadership or that leads it to rouse nationalistic passions because of increased tension with India.

Pakistan: This week, Prime Minister Gilani appointed Pakistan's first female foreign minister. A statement from the Foreign Office says Hina Rabbani Khar was sworn in on Tuesday and also is the youngest foreign minister in Pakistan's history. She was born in 1977.

Comment: The position of Minister had been vacant since February when the previous foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, had a falling out with the ruling party. She was named Minister of State for Foreign Affairs in February and has served as Acting Minister since Qureshi's departure. Her family is a wealthy land holding and business family from Punjab Province. She obtained a Master's of Science degree in hotel management from the University of Massachusetts in 2001.

Pakistan-US: For the record. Prime Minister Gilani said he has received US assurances there will be no repeat of the unilateral raid that killed Usama Bin Laden in May. Gilani's remarks, in an interview with the Guardian, contradict assertions by the US president, Barack Obama, and other American officials that US forces would take similar action against other al-Qaida leaders if necessary, according to the Guardian.

Afghanistan: Special comment. Yesterday the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan released an audit report on significant lapses of accountability for US spending in Afghanistan, based on an 18 month audit.

The report contains significant findings and it suggests that US funds probably are reaching the Taliban. While deplorable, that is a common pattern in insurgencies. The dominant power almost always finances and supplies both sides of an insurgency, from the Philippines to Colombia.

As for Afghanistan, the country's only sources of steady, year round and reliable financing are US payments and contract payments. Diversion of funds from US payments provides the best explanation why the Taliban can maintain a high level of attacks and IED emplacements even in winter, as they did this past winter. For example, Afghanistan does not make any of the ammonium nitrate that is used in most Taliban IEDs. All of it comes from Pakistan and none of it is free.

Some drug money goes to the Taliban, but the drug cartels are business enterprises and the crop is seasonal. Some money also comes from Islamic charities and Pakistanis, but those appear to be distant third and fourth sources of Taliban income.

Lessons for new analysts: The first rule of insurgency finance is that insurgents require significant and steady funding. The second rule is the financial system is usually entirely separate from the fighters. Third rule is the financial system is most often based on personal recognizance for security reasons. Thus elimination of the funds handlers and couriers is a significant threat to the survivability of any insurgency. The fourth rule is that the government and its benefactors almost always finance both sides of the fight, usually through leakage, embezzlement, theft or resales of weapons, ammunition and supplies.

The special inspector general's audit report does a great service as a reminder of the above rules.

Egypt: On 21 July, Field Marshal Tantawi presided at the swearing-in ceremony for the new Egyptian cabinet. It includes 14 new members and retains 12 from the prior cabinet. There is no Minister of Defense, which was Tantawi's old position. The new members replace ministers deemed too pro-Mubarak.

Comment: The government has admitted the cabinet shuffle is intended to appease protestors who complained that the continued tenure of Mubarak holdovers signified the uprising produced no fundamental change in the government. The cabinet is a caretaker government that will be replaced after the elections, now set for November.

The antiquities ministry has been downgraded from a ministry to a cabinet-affiliated office, according to a government spokesman. The announcement came after the new cabinet was sworn without an antiquities minister.

Egypt's antiquities agency had been elevated to a ministry by former president Mubarak in the last days of his rule. Previously it had been under the Ministry of Culture. The government has not yet announced who will replace Zahi Hawass.

Malawi: Update. The president lashed out at anti-government demonstrators Thursday, as two days of protests left 18 people dead and at least 44 injured.

President Bingu wa Mutharika said the protestors were "working for satan. … Each time we have a problem, is it a solution to go to the streets and demonstrate? I don't think so," he said in a state of the nation address. "Those of you who have started this, I know you."

The Malawian army has been deployed in Lilongwe, Blantyre and Mzuzu in a crackdown on the protestors. Mutharika vowed to do whatever must be done to quell the protests. He said as leader of the country, the constitution allows him to ensure peace using every measure he can think of.

End of NightWatch for 21 July.

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