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NightWatch 20130414

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NightWatch

For the night of 14 April 2013

North Korea: Update. North Koreans celebrated Kim Il-sung's birthday without launching a missile, as of this Watch. The leadership rejected offers of talks proposed by the US and by the Republic of Korea. It also rejected negotiations over Kaesong, which remains idle.

On Saturday, South Korean intelligence reported the missiles deployed to the east coast site had not been detected for two days, suggesting they have not moved, according to the report. There have been no reports of missile movement over the weekend.

Comment: Despite the expectations of the western press and commentators, the lack of a launch reinforces the judgment the North Koreans are not predictable using western behavioral norms. Sometimes they time sensational demonstrations of their achievements around national holidays, but other times they do not consider such displays appropriate.

American media coverage of the missiles and North Korean threats trivialized a very dangerous subject. The enemy that can be ridiculed apparently is less of a threat, but the reassurance message contained in that media wisdom degrades vigilance. This confrontation requires sustained, patient high vigilance 

In such a circus-like international media atmosphere, a serious-minded North Korean leadership prudently could have concluded that a missile launch would not have the effect the North Koreans are hoping to achieve. In not conforming to western expectations of timing, they rebuild uncertainty and raise tension. The missiles are still deployed.

North Korean leaders have stated plainly they would not talk with the US and cut off all communications with South Korea. Thus they might find it curious that both have offered to talk. They might consider such offers as reinforcing their narrative of winning victories.

Official Allied statements implying the North Korean leaders are acting irresponsibly are probably not conducive to ending the confrontation. They are not ready and not willing to talk and apparently not yet ready to act.

Afghanistan: On Friday, Taliban fighters killed 13 Afghan soldiers when they overran an outpost in Nari District of Konar Province, on the Pakistan border. According to the police, some 200 attackers, shielded by dense woodland, attacked from all sides and completely destroying the outpost.

Comment: The Taliban did to the Afghans what they have done to US, French, German and other NATO outposts. They fought conventionally in overwhelming numbers. Without air support, the Afghans did as well as NATO soldiers under similar conditions.

Some of the press coverage implied that the best Afghan soldiers were somehow less capable. There is no way to know that when the defenders are outnumbered 15 to one. One thing is certain is that this scene will be repeated on numerous occasions because the Afghans have no air power.

Mali-Chad: French President Deby announced that Chad intends to withdraw all its forces from Mali and the first battalion has already departed. His stated reason is that Chadian forces are not equipped or trained for fight a counter-guerrilla war, into which the Mali fight has devolved.

Comment: Deby's announcement appears to be in reaction to the death of three Chadian soldiers last week. A suicide bomber killed them in an attack in the northern city of Kidal. The withdrawal of the Chadians will put stress on France and on the UN peacekeeping force, which now totals about 6,300 but is to increase to 11,000. Deby's announcement highlights the need for continuing combat operations over peacekeeping because there is no peace in the north.

End of NightWatch for 14 April.

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