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NightWatch 20110712


For the Night of 12 July 2011

South Korea-North Korea: During this Watch, delegates from the two Koreas discussed the disposition of South Korean property and other assets at the Mount Kumgang resort in eastern North Korea. The result of the talks is not known.

Comment: Hyundai is the largest investor in the resort which began in 1998 but was suspended in 2008 after the shooting death of a South Korean tourist by a North Korean soldier. The North Koreans required the South Koreans to meet on the 13th to discuss disposition of the multi-million dollar resort facilities.

Previous talks have been inconclusive, mainly because the North showed signs that it was determined to expropriate the resort under several legal fictions. Nationalization of the resort means its certain death, especially under North Korean management. More to follow.

Pakistan: Defence Minister Mukhtar said Pakistan will withdraw its troops from the nearly 1,100 checkpoints along the Pakistani-Afghan border in reaction to the U.S. suspension of military aid, The Tribune Express reported on 12 July.

Mukhtar said $300 million of the aid specifically supports troops along the border and Pakistan cannot afford to deploy its military in the mountains and border areas for long. He said the aid is not for fighting the war but repayment for monies already spent. He said withdrawing troops will sabotage efforts against the Taliban and al Qaida but Islamabad's next step will be to remove all troops from all the border areas.

Comment: Mukhtar's remarks strike at the heart of the fundamental discontinuity between the US and the Pakistanis. Pashtun fighting against the Afghan government, even from bases in Pakistan, is not an issue that Pakistan considers important to its national security.

Ten years on and the fundamental disagreements between the US and Afghanistan and Pakistan remain unresolved. The anti-Afghan Pashtuns pose no threat to Pakistan. Thus, the US or Afghanistan must pay and have paid for lackluster Pakistani security cooperation on the border.

The Pakistani tribal and paramilitary forces on the border essentially are mercenaries. When the money dries up, the border watch ends. That is the signinficance of today's statement. The US needs Pakistani cooperation a lot more than Pakistan needs anything the US is offering.

Pakistan-China: China pledged its support for its close ally  Pakistan on Tuesday, after the United States announced it would suspend $800 million worth of security aid to Pakistan.

"Pakistan is an important country in South Asia. The stability and development of Pakistan is closely connected with the peace and stability of South Asia," China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters.

"China always has provided assistance to Pakistan, helping it improve people's livelihood and realize the sustainable development of its economy and society. China will continue to do so in the future."

Comment: Any excuse to draw Pakistan tighter into China's network of proxies that ring India and which support China's economic development presents an opportunity that Chinese leaders will not miss. China is always there to help Pakistan after US interest wanes, as it has done thriced in the past and recently has begun because of the domestic economic crisis in the US.

The second lesson is that US leverage on Pakistan is limited, primarily because of China. China is Pakistan's all-weather ally. US interest in Pakistan ebbs and flows and is always time- and issue- delimited. Yet, Pakistan's threats endure. China is always present. Its support provides Pakistani leaders the backbone to defy US pressure.

Pakistani leaders know this and make the most of US largesse during the short time it lasts. However, leaders such as Musharraf and the late Benazir Bhutto knew that US aid is a short-term windfall.

US priority interest in Pakistan essentially ends in 2014, but Pakistan's threats will endure long past that year.

Chinese aid is driven by mutual disdain for India - geography, culture and strategic goals-and a long view of history. Pakistan is China's flank support in the future struggle with India for leadership in Asia. Asian states are maneuvering to take advantage of the forthcoming US withdrawal from South Asia.

Lessons for new analysts: A nation with options cannot be pressured. Blockades are only successful against islands. A peninsula cannot be quarantined or blockaded. Nuclear armed states cannot be coerced.

Afghanistan: Ahmed Wali Karzai, half-brother to President Hamid Karzai and the head of Kandahar's provincial council, was killed inside his home on 12 July in Kandahar city. He was assassinated by a hired bodyguard.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi said the Taliban claimed responsibility for the death. Ahmadi said Karzai's death was good news for Afghanistan as an oppressive figure who oppressed the people of Kandahar was now dead.

Comment: Despite the Taliban claim, it is not clear whether they or, more likely, a competitor in the drug and other smuggling trades were responsible for the assassination.

Almost any prominent figure in Afghanistan is vulnerable to assassination, if only because of the gun culture that approves settlement of disputes by gunfire. Wali Karzai was the local leader of the Popalzai Pashtuns. He favored his sub-clan and that made him a target for other clans, regardless of the Taliban. His replacement will favor his clan.

The Popalzai Pashtuns and Karzai's family will be less prosperous. Kandahar is no more or less secure than it has been for the past six years.

Afghanistan-France: French President Sarkozy said France will withdraw 1,000 troops from its mission in Afghanistan by the end of 2012, in accordance with the U.S. withdrawal timeline. Speaking during a visit to Afghanistan, Sarkozy said the remaining French soldiers will be based in the Afghan province of Kapisa, comparatively quiet.

Comment: NATO countries want to withdraw their contingents without incurring more casualties and without appearing to be retreating. Canada has led the way and France is following. Nothing and no one in Afghanistan pose a threat to Canada or France.

Palestinian Authority: Update. The Palestinians plan to submit their bid for statehood to the United Nations this fall. Although Palestinian leaders hope the United States will not veto the bid, they intend to comply with the decision, Palestinian President Abbas said after a meeting with Greek President Karolos Papoulias.

The lack of a statement from the Middle East Quartet indicates a deep division, Abbas said. The only option is to support the Palestinian Territories' bid for statehood based on the 1967 borders, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said.

Comment: What happens if the US abstains?

Libya: Prime Minister al-Mahmoudi told the French press that the "Tripoli" is ready for unconditional negotiations to end the crisis and stop the bombings. He said more than 70 percent of Libya's military capacity was destroyed. The Qadhafi regime is "peeling away like an onion," French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet stated. Longuet added that any political solution must come through Qadhafi's withdrawal from power and renouncement of any political role.

There is no timeline for ending NATO's Libyan operations and the Alliance is not short of munitions or financing, Longuet said.

Comment: Statements by Qadhafi's spokesmen are not to be credited. The French apparently believe the end of the Qadhafi regime is near. The statement about the degradation of Qadhafi's forces is supported by the near absence of reports of offensive operations by pro-Qadhafi forces during the past two weeks.

End of NightWatch for 12 July.

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