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NightWatch 20110929


For the night of 29 September 2011

China: Update. China successfully launched the first module of its space lab on 28 September.

Afghanistan: According to a report released on 28 September by the secretary-general of the United Nations, at the end of August, the average monthly number of violent incidents for 2011 was 2,108, up 39 percent compared with the same period in 2010.

The south and southeast of the country, particularly around Kandahar, continued to be the focus of military activity, accounting for approximately two thirds of all security incidents. Complex suicide attacks made up a greater proportion of the total number of suicide attacks. On average, there has been a 50 percent increase in these attacks compared with the same period in 2010.

Comment: US military authorities challenged the UN findings. Readers need to know that the US military and the UN are not using the same standards of measurement and are not counting the same things.

The UN counts all security incidents, which is the same approach NightWatch has used for the past six years. The NATO method of calculating Taliban attacks has changed several times in the past few years, but counts attacks that the Taliban initiate and counts roadside bombs separately.

NightWatch has experienced sourcing problems, but as of July and August 2011, the NightWatch data match the UN data for all types of security incidents.

Iraq: For the record. Foreign troops in Iraq, including U.S. forces, will withdraw by the end of 2011, Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki said on 29 September. Al-Maliki said the withdrawal did not apply to weapons experts or trainers.

Comment: News services reported the US intends to leave behind in Iraq nearly 3.5 million pieces of equipment valued at more than $300 million. The cost of repatriating the equipment would exceed its value. Still, how is this accounted and is there any return on taxpayer investment?

The French destroyed their equipment rather than leave it to the Guineans in 1958.

Turkey: Prime Minister Erdogan said Ankara wants a new constitution to replace the current one by the first half of 2012, Today's Zaman reported. Speaking to reporters at the Esenboga Airport before departing for Macedonia, Erdogan said his government will raise the issue when Parliament opens 1 October.

Comment: Parliament will authorize a new constitution, if that is what Erdogan wants. It will be less secular than the existing constitution. If it conforms to constitutional practice in other Muslim states it will refer to Sharia as the guide for legislation and executive action.

Syria: Protestors surrounded the office of the outlawed Syrian Arab Socialist Democratic Union party when US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford was meeting with party leader Hassan Abdul-Azim.

Abdul-Azim said the protesters were supporters of Syrian President al-Asad. They tried to force their way inside the office, breaking some door locks. Office security prevented them from entering, he said, adding that Ford remained in the office with about 100 protesters outside. Abdul-Azim said security personnel arrived about an hour after the attack began.

Syrian political security intelligence personnel succeeded in dispersing the protestors so that the ambassador could leave. His convoy was pelted with eggs as it departed.

Comment: It is not clear in the open source domain what Ford's guidance is or what he hopes to accomplish, but he made a hash of it today. The US always needs to maintain contacts with all sides of a dispute and with all important stake holders. That is not the job of the Ambassador, most often. It is the reason that an embassy has an intelligence operations staff.

The ambassador looks like he is grandstanding and taking sides in a problem that is not a vital US security interest….yet.

Palestine: No date has been set to restart reconciliation negotiations between Hamas and Fatah, a Hamas spokesman said. The spokesman said Hamas is in favor of Palestinian unity and described Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' speech at the UN as an unprecedented and positive development. However, the spokesman pointed out that the bid for UN membership did not emerge from a Palestinian agreement and did not take into account issues such as refugees, resistance and previous U.N. resolutions.

Comment: The inability of the Palestinians to agree on anything means any attacks against Israel will be local, limited, ineffective and most likely from Gaza. The Palestinians appear determined to snatch defeat from the jaws of potential victory.

Egypt: The Muslim Brotherhood and the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) said they will not participate in the "Reclaiming the Revolution" protests in Cairo on 30 September, according to the Daily News Egypt. Individual party members may join the protests, but the two groups will not be officially represented, FJP deputy head Essam el-Erian said.

Comment: The Islamist parties continue to decline to authorize or engage in public demonstrations that might jeopardize their chances of taking power through the election process which begins in January.

End of NightWatch for 29 September.

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