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NightWatch 20111020


For the night of 20 October 2011

South Korea: The South Korean armed forces will hold an annual countrywide exercise from 27 October to 4 November, involving all branches of the military to improve defense against North Korean threats, according to a public statement by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The "Hoguk Exercise" will aim to enhance joint combat capabilities and interoperability and will include drills for defense of islands in the Yellow Sea. South Korean and U.S. forces will also hold a joint drill.

Comment: Curiously, every time the US has established contact with North Korea this year, the South Koreans seem to have a simultaneous military exercise of some kind ready to hand. The South Korean message is actually quite clear.

The US must not make unilateral agreements with North Korea. That era of that kind of high-handedness ended when South Korean-made cars became successful competitors to Japanese and US-made cars.

The US stable of diplomats for dealing with North Korea seem only dimly aware that time for bilateral deals is over, except in the minds of North Korean leaders. Bilateral deals are precisely what they want in order to aggravate frictions in the Alliance. Every new US administration falls for the same old North Korean ruses.

The Koreans can solve Korean problems if the US will just back its Ally and "lead from behind." Some US diplomats for northeast Asia seem to lack the insight that Us Allies in northeast Asia have matured. Put another way, some Americans can't tolerate the consequences of policy success.

"Inside the Ring" today clarified that the change in the head of the US delegation for talks with North Korea next week resulted from Ambassador Bosworth's criticism that the US has no strategy and no coherent policy for dealing with North Korea. That should be a reassuring message to Readers because that is what NightWatch has reported based only on public information and the inferences it supported.

NightWatch observed that a change in the head of delegation meant a change in policy. NightWatch should have suggested another, hard to imagine, alternative, that it might indicate the absence of a policy or policy disarray. We gave the US administration's northeast Asia people more credit than they deserved, apparently.

The lesson to analysts is that a change of the head of delegation does always means a change of policy or tactics, but sometimes the policy change is free fall, talk for the sake of talking with the hope that something will emerge.

Pakistan: A gaggle of US senior leaders led by Hillary Clinton with a supporting cast of Chairman, JCS, General Dempsey and CIA Director Petraeus reportedly conveyed a strong message to Pakistani leaders that they must crack down on insurgent strongholds used to assist in attacks on Afghanistan.

A clear, firm message must be sent to the Pakistani people and government that they are part of the solution, Clinton said. They must rid their country of insurgents who kill their own people and others in Afghanistan. Pakistan must lead this fight because there is no other place to go, and there will be strict consequences if this is allowed to continue, she said.

Special comment: Secretary Clinton's public statement is posturing. Clinton almost certainly did not talk that way to the Pakistani government leadership because the Obama administration needs Pakistani military flank support a lot more than Pakistan needs the US, thanks to the Chinese.

The more likely main topic of business was managing the US and NATO withdrawal by arranging some Pakistani flank support in return for US intelligence. The idea apparently would be that the US would provide intelligence support and drone support to help Pakistan restrain the Taliban and other anti-Afghan government groups from attacking the withdrawing Westerners as they withdraw. The US also probably offered to provide intelligence assistance to help protect the Pakistan Army and government.

Turkey-Iraq: The Turkish armed forces began ground operations in five different locations in Turkey and in northern Iraq, the Turkish Army said on 20 October. The military deployed 22 battalions to the areas, with the air force supporting them. 22 battalions is the equivalent of an army corps… a lot of soldiers and support.

Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan told the press today that Turkey will seek cooperation from Kurdish peshmerga militia fighters in its fight against Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) forces along the Iraqi border. Today's Zaman reported that Erdogan said he plans to meet with Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government's President Massoud Barzani to evaluate the situation as well as other issues concerning the peshmergas.

Comment: Turkey has not solicited aid from the Kurdish militias, known as the peshmerga, during past incursions. The appeal for Iraqi Kurdish official support appears to be a propaganda stunt. The size of the Turkish force committed to the operations indicates the Turks expect no help, but are indulging the formalities of consultation and cooperation.

Palestinian Authority: Update. Hamas rejected Palestinian President Abbas' plan to suggest general elections to end internal Palestinian divisions. A Hamas leader told Voice of Palestine radio that Hamas views the plan as a move to evade the reconciliation agreement by selectively dealing with certain sections of the pact. He added that holding elections is only one of the five articles in the agreement.

Comment: Encouraged by the success in arranging the prisoner exchange, Hamas apparently judges it can demand and get everything it wants. This situation continues to become more radical in favor of Hamas.

Kenya-Somalia: Update. Kenyan troops will go to Kismayo, Somalia, an al Shabaab stronghold, and stay in Somalia until no insurgents remain, a Kenyan military spokesman said on 20 October. The spokesman said Kenyan troops took over Somalia's southern town of Ras Kamboni after al Shabaab retreated.

Comment: The Kenyans had better be much better trained and supported than the Ethiopians, if they expect to hold Kismayo and stay in Somalia indefinitely. Many of the background and supporting details of the Kenyan invasion have yet to be disclosed. Every day new details reinforce the hypothesis that the US is backing the Kenyans extensively.

Libya: For the record. Muammar Qadhafi's body has reached Misrata, Al Arabiya TV reported on 20 October. Al Jazeera TV broadcast footage showing rebels dragging Qadhafi's body through the street.

Mauritania-Mali: For the record. The Mauritanian army used preventative air strikes to attack al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) elements in the Wagadou forest in northern Mali, according to state-owned AMI news agency. AQIM was planning to strike Mauritania, an army spokesman said. Several cars loaded with explosive devices were destroyed.

Comment: It is easy to forget that the French and their Sahelian African Muslim allies are also in the fight against Islamic terrorists.

End of NightWatch for 20 October.

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