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NightWatch 20100428


For the Night of 28 April 2010

South Korea: Update. The South Korean government plans to report the results of its investigation into the sinking of its patrol ship Cheonan to China and Russia and to consult with both of them before referring the case to the United Nations, Yonhap reported 28 April, according to an unidentified official. The source said that there is a need to brief China and Russia and to get their opinions because they are not directly involved in the investigation and may have differing security interests.

South Korea also will seek China and Russia's support in any actions against those responsible for the sinking.

Thailand: The political crisis drew closer to a climax because of today's clash between security personnel and anti-government protesters on the outskirts of Bangkok. Troops fired over the heads of protestors and then directly into the crowd of Red Shirts to contain the demonstration.

The clash began after hundreds of troops blocked the Red Shirt convoy that was heading from Bangkok to the central province of Pathum Thani. Reuters reported that protesters charged the army using homemade weapons. At least 11 people were injured in clashes between Red Shirt protesters and the Thai army, Xinhua reported. One Thai soldier was killed by friendly fire.

Comment: The indecision and ineptitude of the authorities continue to aggravate the situation and increase the likelihood the security situation will escalate out of control. More violent clashes are almost inevitable, unless the government resigns or declares martial law. The royal family seems likely to sacrifice the Abhisit government in the interest of restoring order and restoring normal economic activity.

India-Pakistan: Indian Prime Minister Singh and Pakistani Prime Minister Gilani will meet on the 29th on the sidelines of a South Asian summit in Bhutan, the Indian External Affairs Ministry announced on 28 April.

Expect no breakthroughs because Pakistan has not satisfied the Indian terms for talks, which center on suppressing Pakistan-based terrorism against India.

Pakistan: Musharraf is planning to make a political comeback by leading a new political party, according to Pakistani officials. One of his aides and an election official told Agence France-Presse
that Musharraf had applied to register a new political party with the electoral authorities in Islamabad.

Mohammad Ali Saif, a former cabinet minister and now a legal adviser to Musharraf, said election authorities would hear the application on 10 May. I have formally applied for a new political party called All Pakistan Muslim League. Pervez Musharraf is the head of this party and we will formally announce it after getting registered," he told AFP. Saif, an unofficial spokesman for Musharraf, is active in organizing the new political party and "Musharraf will certainly come. He will face all the charges. These are politically motivated cases with no evidence," said Saif

Comment: Musharraf has been in London since ending his nine-years in power two years ago and could face a criminal trial if he returns home. Plus he is wanted for questioning by the government over the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

Musharraf reportedly believes he was railroaded from office by politicians. He has a messianic view of his contributions to Pakistan. His return would set back constitutional government more than 20 years.

Security. Pakistan has transferred between 130,000 and 150,000 troops from its Indian frontier to its Afghan border for an offensive against militants in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province, Reuters reported 28 April, citing a Pentagon report. The report said the shift represented the biggest deployment of Pakistani troops on the country's western border in its history, but it is unlikely to have an immediate impact on fighting in Afghanistan.

Comment: Something is wrong with the math and with the comment. The numbers would represent a shift of at least eight divisions of infantry combat personnel, according to the Pakistan Army web site and Wikipedia. No reporting sources indicate Pakistan has made a transfer from the Indian border of that magnitude. It simply has not taken place.

Most of the fighting against the militants in the west has been led by the paramilitary Frontier Corps with the Pakistan Army acting in support. The Army has two infantry corps in strategic reserve at Peshawar and Quetta. Major elements of them have been committed to the anti-militant fight and been reinforced by selected units from the forces arrayed against India. Those Corps probably are included in the numbers some Pentagon analysts are counting as a deduction from the frontal glacis facing India.

No significant reduction of force against India is even theoretically possible.

As to the statement about the effects on Afghanistan, it is a bit unfair, by implication, and disingenuous in fact because the Pakistan Army and Frontier Cops has pursued Pakistani Taliban, not Afghan Taliban. The Pakistani operations have never been billed as in support of US operations in Afghanistan. To do so would risk an insurrection in the Pakistan Army.

Afghanistan: Only 29 of 121 strategically significant Afghan districts support the government of President Hamid Karzai, and the political will to "fight" (sic) corruption is still in doubt, according to yet another Pentagon assessment released 28 April, Reuters reported.

The report notes modest progress on anti-corruption efforts, particularly in legal and institutional reforms, but says that substantive change is lacking and the public perception of such efforts are "decidedly negative" and extend to international forces and the international community. The government's inability to provide basic services and the "exploitative behavior" of some officials contribute to the insurgency's success, the report says.

Comment: NightWatch has studied Afghanistan for more than 30 years and based on that body of experience it challenges the assertions of the study as jejune, as reported. First of all, no baseline study of Afghan attitudes towards corruption has ever been performed. We do not know how Afghans define corruption, even. Further, it is remarkable that any analyst or agency would pretend to assert that there is some kind of homogeneity in the attitudes of the residents of any district in Afghanistan without reference to tribal leadership.

Louis Dupree came as close as anyone to defining corruption in Afghanistan. It does not mean honest government, as understood in the west. The meaning is closer to overreaching for personal advantage without spreading the benefits to the tribe. The idea of "fighting" corruption is American political cant, not anything related to Afghanistan.

The idea of supporting the central government is an alien import. Legal and institutional reforms? are pretty meaningless in a country that is illiterate. Again, there is no baseline for measuring support for the government, whatever that means. If the dominant tribal elder in a district benefits from Karzai's cronies, the district will support the government. It is astonishing that someone in Washington could conclude that 29 of 400 districts support anything.

This kind of sophistry, as reported, is symptomatic of the problems about which the US intelligence chief complained in January. Bold assertions are meaningless and lack context without definitions and baselines.

For example, in 1996 more than 100 mortar, rocket and direct fire attacks occurred daily in Kabul when Hekmatyar was prime minister. That is a baseline datum for how bad security can get in Kabul during a civil war. The Taliban and all other anti-government forces have never come close to achieving that level of insecurity in ten years.

The arrival of Americans did not reset the baseline for violence or political loyalty in Afghanistan. The insurgency is not a function of the American definition of corruption. Such a suggestion misleads policy makers. It is much more about foreign soldiers occupying Afghan tribal lands. In other words, there would be fighting and insurgency to drive out the invaders even if the government in Kabul were as clean as a hound's tooth, to quote CIA Director Casey. It is ignorant to suggest otherwise.

Palestinian Authority-Gaza Strip: Hamas security forces detained Palestinian political activists for distributing leaflets urging Hamas to ease up on the people of Gaza or face a possibly explosive revolt, Reuters reported 28 April.

An official of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) stated that several members were arrested and set free. He said people are under huge pressure but they are also afraid to express themselves. PFLP took the responsibility to voice their concerns. The leaflet warned Hamas about increasing pressure that could push people to rebel against such practices and even explode in the faces of those responsible.

When the Palestinians tire of suppression by their own leaders, peace prospects with Israel might improve.

End of NightWatch for 28 April.

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