For the night of 15 September 2014
Pakistan-Al-Qaida: Update. The attack on the Pakistani frigate on 6 September has taken a new twist. The leader of the new South Asian branch of al-Qaida posted a statement to the web that claimed the attackers intended to attack a US aircraft carrier by firing missiles from the Pakistan Navy ship that they boarded. A US aircraft carrier was in the area at the time.
The web posting also claimed that Pakistan Navy insiders aided and abetted the plan and the execution of the attack.
Comment: The Pakistanis killed three and captured seven attackers. The new information, in some senses, makes the lapse of security even worse, because the attack team was so inept.
The fact that and the extent to which the Pakistan Navy contains al-Qaida sympathizers should be a serious concern for the US and Allied ships that call at Karachi. The other significant point is the ambition of this new al-Qaida group in trying to find a way to attack and aircraft carrier.
The plan to attack a US naval ship by firing anti-ship missiles from a Pakistan Navy ship is innovative. A better trained attack team might have succeeded in firing a missile.
Punjabi Taliban: The chief of the Taliban fighters in Punjab Province announced his group was abandoning its "armed struggle." Ismatullah Muawiya said that after consulting other Muslim leaders, his group would now limit its use of force to "infidel forces" and would focus on promoting Sharia. He accompanied the announcement with a declaration of the group's patriotism and an expression of its desire to defend Pakistan from "outside threats".
Muawiya also said the Punjabi Taliban would continue to operate in Afghanistan, but would focus on preaching. He called on other Taliban factions to abandon their insurgencies in Pakistan. He called on the government to compensate those affected by its offensive in Waziristan and other tribal agencies and to rehabilitate them with "honor and dignity". "Peace is the need of the hour to foil conspiracies against Pakistan and its people," he said.
Comment: This faction of the Taliban has attacked government installations infrequently in the past six years, but with significant success. Its emergence in Punjab Province proved that the Taliban were not just a Pashtun tribal phenomenon and had appeal among Punjabis in eastern Pakistan. More on this story as details emerge.
Iraq: On 14 September, an Iraqi newspaper reported that "Vice President Nuri al-Maliki criticized Prime Minister Haydar al-Abadi's decision to stop the shelling of cities to prevent civilian casualties."
During a joint conference with Karbala Governor Aqil al-Turayhi, al-Maliki said: "Some cities have become deserted and turned into camps for DA'ISH (DA'ISH is the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, (ISIL))." Al Maliki said that the "DA'ISH is a gang gathering in a place and seeking shelter in the cities and taking advantage of the government's decision to cease the shelling of the cities."
Comment: Al-Maliki's statements are symptomatic of the political disarray in Iraq. Prime Minister al-Abadi pulled a government together, primarily because of outside pressure. Al Maliki and others criticize strategy, while al-Abadi is trying to attract Sunnis to the government's side. Meanwhile, the Kurds want assurances that their territorial gains since June will be respected.
The unwillingness of political factions to put national security ahead of partisan advantage is a good indicator that the Iraqi leaders do not perceive the ISIL threat to be as imminent or as great as western media describe it. ISIL is extreme, but its observance of Islam conforms to the preachings of the Wahhab sect which dominates Saudi Arabia.
That might help explain the President of Iraq's statement on 15 September that Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE do not need to participate in airstrikes against ISIL. He also regretted that Iran was excluded from today's conference in Paris about building a coalition.
Ukraine: The government submitted a draft bill to the parliament that would bestow "special status" for the Donetsk and Luhansk regions until a new constitution is drafted. According to Ukrainian media, the new law would provide "protection" for the Russian language; empower the regions to develop "neighborly relations" between local self-governments in Ukraine and in Russia and grant partial amnesty for militants who would lay down arms voluntarily and who committed no serious crimes.
Comment: This bill appears to embody the substance of the talks between Ukrainian President Poroshenko and Russian President Putin, as well as the follow-up talks in Minsk. If passed, it should end most of the ceasefire violations. Anticipation of the new bill seems explain Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov's comments last week in which he stopped talking about a Ukrainian federation arrangement and insisted that media reporters focus on the substance of the issues, not names.
Meanwhile, on the 13th Ukrainian Prime Minister Yatsenyuk said that Ukraine is in a state of war with Russia. He accused Russian President Putin of having the goal of taking over the entire Ukraine.
Comment: It is difficult to reconcile the actions of Poroshenko with the statements of Yatsenyuk.
Nigeria: The Boko Haram group that overran Michika last week has kidnapped 50 women and girls and has conscripted the able-bodied young men into Boko Haram for training. A resident said, "The insurgents conducted preaching sessions to attract converts to their sect, but people only listened out of fear. The next day they asked if anybody wanted to join them, but there was no response, so they selected many healthy looking young men and asked them to go with them."
Comment: Nigerian analysts say Boko Haram is following the guidance of ISIL in how to set up its own local Islamic State. It is treating MIchika as part of its domain.
Farther north, Boko Haram fighters reportedly have surrounded Maiduguri in the past two weeks. Maiduguri is the capital of Borno State. It is estimated to contain up to a million residents.
The Nigerian army is fighting back. An army element reportedly ambushed and killed 200 militants and a senior Boko Haram commander in a battle in Konduga, which is about 20 miles southeast of Maiduguri. An army spokesman said the army sustained no casualties, but wiped out the militants and seized their vehicles.
"So far this has been the most successful outing in recent times, because we left no stone unturned," said the officer. "We've had hints in the last two days that they would be attacking Konduga with the intention of taking and using the town to launch a major attack on Maiduguri; we waited patiently for the day and, as God would have it, they came as expected....We counted up to 200 of them, including one that was attempting suicide bombings. We also shot dead their cameraman and recovered his camera; there were over 200 of their corpses littering everywhere."
Comment: The Nigerians bragged about another minor success near Maiduguri today. The group that has the most ammunition and men will win the battle for Maiduguri.
Today's action reinforces recent warnings that Boko Haram wants to capture Maiduguri and make it the capital of its Islamic State. One unconfirmed report said Boko Haram will mass over 3,000 men against Maiduguri. Maiduguri would be the first state capital to fall to Boko Haram.
Mali: A landmine explosion hit a vehicle carrying UN peacekeepers from Chad on patrol in northeastern Mali on Sunday, killing one and seriously wounding four others, according to the UN mission in Mali. The incident occurred near Aguelhoc town and is the second mine detonation in this area this month, On 2 September four peacekeepers were killed and 15 wounded.
Comment: The French and UN peacekeepers control the towns. They have driven the militants into the desert, but have not destroyed them. Without access to high tech intelligence assets and sustained counter-terrorism operations, the Malian and UN security forces cannot stop the militants. They have reduced their attacks to a manageable level for now.
End of NightWatch for 15 September.
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