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NightWatch 20111026

NightWatch

For the night of 26 October 2011

China-Pakistan: Asia Times Online reported today, 26 October, that China is interested in establishing military bases in either Pakistan's tribal areas or its northern areas that border Xinjiang Province and attributed this story to unidentified Pakistani sources. The sources supposedly said Pakistani and Chinese political and military leaders discussed the issue in recent months and Pakistan wants China to build a naval base at its southwestern seaport of Gwadar in Baluchistan Province.

The author of the article opined that it was a deliberate deceptive leak by Pakistani intelligence to embarrass the US.

Comment: Treating the issues in reverse order, China has made it clear that it does not seek a naval base in Gwadar in western Pakistan. That part of the Pakistani leak is a fabrication. China has invested commercially in Gwadar and the railroads that eventually and ultimately will connect to Chinese rail in Xinjiang. Chinese naval ships have access to Gwadar, but Chinese leaders have denied any intention to build a Chinese naval base anywhere.

China will not seek a base in the northwestern tribal agencies for several reasons. First is that China has built no base anywhere and disdains bases as symbols of colonialism. Of more tactical importance, anti-Chinese Uighur terrorists have been trained in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime and in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir, called Azad Kashmir. The Afghanistan training ended with the US intervention.  Training of Chinese Uighurs at bases in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir apparently continues.

Pakistani intelligence runs the insurgent training bases and camps in Azad Kashmir. A Chinese intelligence installation might have value for monitoring the Uighurs, but would not constitute a base.  No other installiation would have any value except against India. 

Pakistan: Former president Pervez Musharraf warned Wednesday that Pakistani spies will need to take 'counter-measures' in Afghanistan if US troops leave it unstable or it becomes too close to India.

On a visit to Washington, Musharraf described relations between the United States and Pakistan as 'terrible', but defended the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate that American officials have accused of supporting extremists.

Comment: Civilian prime ministers, primarily Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, committed Pakistan to supporting the Taliban. Musharraf was a field grade officer when the policy began to be executed. Under his tenure, however, as coup leader and later president, he continued that policy, which is actually sound for Pakistan's strategic interests, beyond 2014 when US soldiers will have departed.

The significance of Musharraf's statement is that it reveals that the Pakistani leadership will never let Afghanistan alone. They will always find a justification for meddling on behalf of Pakistani strategic depth and the Pashtuns. With the US end game in sight, they sense even more reason to continue a policy that has blunted Indian inroads in Afghanistan and prevents the formation of a power vacuum after the US leaves.

Afghanistan always has been unstable In the past 20 years, India and Iran became the supporters of the northern tribes against the Pakistan-supported Pashtuns in the south. That polarity has not changed during the US and NATO interlude and will intensify after 2014. Musharraf is asserting a hard truth.

Afghanistan: President Karzai is expected to announce on 2 November that the International Security Assistance Force will hand over security responsibility for 17 more areas to Afghan forces beginning in December. The areas include the Takhar, Sar-e-Pul, Samangan, Parwan and Balkh provinces in the north, Daikondi in central Afghanistan, Nimroz in the west and parts of Wardak and Ghazni provinces.

Comment: Five of the provinces are moderately quiet. However, Wardak and especially Ghazni are hot provinces in the Pashtun heartland that will be true tests of Afghan security force capabilities.

Libya: The International Criminal Court (ICC) has not received confirmation that Saif al-Islam Qadhafi and former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senoussi are proposing to turn themselves in, an ICC spokesman said on 26 October. The ICC is trying to contact Libya's National Transitional Council for more information.

Earlier on the 26th, Saif al-Islam Qadhafi and former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senoussi proposed to turn themselves in to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. The two men reportedly are trying to make the deal from a hideout in Niger.

Comment: Saif al Islam is articulate, well-educated in the UK, wily and protected by the Touaregs. If he reaches Europe, he will cause trouble for the National Transitional Council in Tripoli.

Libya-NATO: For the record. An international alliance that includes some NATO members will assume military operations in Libya until the end of 2011, Qatari officials said. The officials said the alliance will consist of 13 countries and Qatar will lead it. Qatar admitted for the first time that it sent hundreds of ground troops to support the Libyan rebels who overthrew Qadhafi's regime. The Gulf state previously acknowledged only that its air force took part in NATO-led attacks.

Comment: Two kingdoms, Qatar and Jordan, are the Arab protectors of the fledgling Islamist democracy in Libya. That is potentially and oddly good news.

Libya-Venezuela: For the record. President Chavez said Wednesday that he won't recognize Libya's new government and predicted more war in the country. The Venezuelan leader condemned the killing of Qadhafi, whom he considered a friend.

End of NightWatch for 26 October.

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