In Pakistan there is a growing public discussion about Islamic terrorism. More people are admitting that the Islamic radicals are not interested in any form of compromise, but mean it when they say they want to turn the country into a religious dictatorship. More Pakistanis are coming to understand how extensive the Taliban propaganda campaign has been. With the real threat of death or kidnapping, the Taliban discourage journalists from operating in much of the tribal territories. They then supply false data about who is getting hurt up there because of action by the Pakistani security forces or American UAVs.
Japan and India signed agreements to increase military cooperation. This is largely directed at China, which has claims on the territory of both countries.
Still supporting Iraq
While American troops are gone, American military supplies still arrive regularly. Iraq has asked for additional supplies of ammunition, including more Hellfire missiles, and the U.S. announced that these requests would be quickly taken care of. The Iraqi government thanks the Americans and blames neighboring Arab countries for supporting the Sunni terrorists.
Some Taiwanese politicians, desperate to find volunteers for the military, have proposed that the descendants of Chinese soldiers who fled to northern Burma and Thailand after the communists won the Chinese Civil War in 1949, be granted Taiwanese citizenship if they join the Taiwanese Army. This is not a unique situation. Russia, also seeking military volunteers, has offered to allow people to immigrate to Russia if they first serve in the military.
Most Islamic radicals lack the skills, money or ability to carry their struggle to far-off places, so most of the agitation takes place among Muslim populations and those violent attitudes generated are easily directed at available non-Muslims. The more violence you generate, the more really fanatical fighters are developed. These are the people who are willing to travel to foreign lands and deal with non-believers and kill them for the cause. We call it terrorism; the fanatics call it doing what has to be done, defending Islam with jihad.
In late 2013, Taiwan began receiving the 32 American Harpoon submarine-launched anti-ship missiles it first sought back in 2005. Aggressive Chinese diplomacy against the U.S. and other weapons suppliers delayed the Harpoons and prevented anyone from building any new submarines for Taiwan.
Drinking the juche
North Korean leaders are very worried about losing control of the economy and fear those who are creating the new market economy might eventually overthrow the traditional ruling class. Though described as a communist police state, that is only half true. North Korea is definitely a police state, but it stopped being communist, in the traditional sense, during the early 1970s. North Korea developed its own form of communism, juche, partly to extricate itself from the ideological battles going on between its communist neighbors: China and the USSR. Juche was described as a nationalistic form of communism which stresses making North Korea economically self-sufficient and strong enough to defend itself from anyone.
Negotiate or else
The Pakistani government told the Taliban to either negotiate honestly or face another major military campaign. The new head of the army is known for his hostility towards Islamic terrorism so this threat carries some weight.
Fast and furious
The Mexican government, along with U.S. security agencies, confirmed that an AK-47 assault rifle found at the 18 Dec 13 firefight in Puerto Peñasco was one smuggled into Mexico as part of the U.S. BATFE Fast and Furious operation. Fast and Furious gun-walked around 2,000 weapons into Mexico in an effort to trace gun smugglers and their customers.
Islamic radicals throughout the Muslim world continue to take advantage of dissatisfaction among the people and recruit terrorists and supporters. To help this process along they invoke the ancient grudges popular among many Muslims and most of these legends involve Christians beating on Muslims. To most radicals it makes sense to get people agitated over faraway foreigners rather than some ill-tempered tyrant nearby.
Beaten, not defeated
Somali pirates have been beaten, but are not defeated. In 2013, pirates attacked nine ships, but were unsuccessful in capturing any, compared to 2012 when 14 were taken. In 2011, they seized 28 ships; in 2010, 47 and, in 2009, 46 were hijacked. Each of these ships yielded, on average, several million dollars. That kind of money attracted a lot more people to the business. Activity off Somalia and in the Indian Ocean has not been this low since 2006. Even taking smaller fishing ships, dhows and small local cargo ships has become more difficult.
Divide and rule
Though the 2011 Libyan revolution overthrew longtime dictator Moamar Qaddafi, it did not change the tribalism that Qaddafi used for decades to keep potential threats from replacing him. It was only when most of the tribes and much of the population united to overthrow him did Qaddafi’s divide-and-rule technique fail. Now the tribes are out to grab what they can for themselves, no matter the cost to the country. Now, nearly three years later, tribes and militias in eastern Libya are forming a separate state, Cyrenaica, and continuing to shut down most oil exports. Tribes throughout the country are following equally selfish and greedy strategies.
The U.S. declared two Libyan Islamic terrorist groups and a Tunisian one, all called Ansar Sharia, to be international Islamic terrorists. Also designated were their leaders — Ahmed Abu Khattalah and Sufian bin Qumu in Libya, and Seifallah Ben Hassine in Tunisia. The Libyan groups are believed responsible for the 11 Sep 12 attack in Benghazi that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.
Going into its third year, Syria has become a proxy war between Iran and the Sunni Arab states and their Western allies. Because of disunity and increased internal violence, the rebels are losing. The pro-Iran Assad-clan-led government has the backing of Russia, China, North Korea, Cuba and the other usual suspects. The West does not want the expense and bother of doing another Libya with air support and special operations troops on the ground, but that is where this is headed if the West wants to avoid an Iranian/Assad victory.
On 1 Jan 14, China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, and its escort group returned to base after 37 days at sea. A day later the Chinese Navy announced that Liaoning had successfully completed its sea trials. In 2011 China confirmed that the Liaoning would primarily be a training carrier and, apparently, the Chinese plan to station up to 24 jet fighters and 26 helicopters on board. The carrier will also be used to train Chinese officers and sailors to operate as a carrier task force, as the Americans and other Western navies have been doing for over 80 years.
Keeping the drugs out
While Russia strongly opposes any foreign troops in Syria, they are openly calling for foreign troops to remain in Afghanistan. That’s mainly because of the drugs, which are a major problem in Russia, and Islamic terrorists, which are more of a potential threat if Afghanistan ever again becomes a terrorist sanctuary.
Russia is negotiating a trade deal that will help Iran get around the international banking sanctions. To do this, Russia will sell Iran goods in exchange for oil, instead of cash. Russia will then mix this oil with its own and dare the world to refuse it as illegal Iranian oil. In effect, Russia is daring the world to try and stop it from helping Iran beat the sanctions. Russia has much to gain because of its close cooperation with Iran.
Despite North Korean hostility towards a market economy, the country has become more and more dependent on it. Surveys of refugees in China and South Korea indicate that over 80% of North Koreans buy or sell in the free markets and most North Koreans now conduct half their economic activity via the markets. The introduction of some market economy, mainly in the form of legal markets, in the last decade has made more goods available to those who could afford them.
Pakistan has suffered 43,000 terrorist-related deaths in the last six years, mostly in their northwest tribal territories. Relations between Pakistan and India remain frosty because Pakistan will not seriously go after Pakistan-based terror groups that have made attacks inside India. Pakistan has got itself into an absurd situation, where it provides aid and sanctuary to Islamic terrorists who, in turn, make war against Pakistan. All this Islamic violence makes life unbearable in many parts of Pakistan, and when you add religious-based terrorism built into their legal system and the rampant corruption, often by Islamic clerics, it’s no wonder so many Pakistanis want to move elsewhere.
In late 2013, the U.S. Army completed $20 million worth of repairs to Afghanistan’s 1.6-mile-long Salang tunnel. This tunnel makes the 11,000-foot Salang Pass useable when deep snow usually makes it impossible for wheeled traffic to get over the Hindu Kush Mountains.
China takes risks
During the Liaoning sea trials, held in international waters, China aggressively confronted American ships and aircraft that came close to the Liaoning task force. The worst incident occurred on 5 Dec 13 when a 7,000-ton Chinese destroyer cut in front of the 10,000-ton cruiser, USS Cowpens, that was observing the new Chinese carrier from a distance of over 40 kilometers. The Chinese ship risked a collision as it moved to within 100 meters of the U.S. cruiser.
Turning up the heat
China has now really turned up the heat on its unstable and increasingly troublesome neighbor. China does not want an irrational nuclear power on its border and is cutting off various forms of aid in an effort to get North Korea to reform its economy and get rid of its nukes. China is also furious about public defiance from North Korea and is going public with its criticism and threats.
The U.S. DoD granted a waiver to the manufacturer of the new F-35 fighter for having some illegal Chinese components, as they amounted to nothing exotic, $2 magnets and stuff like that. These items — discovered through an audit — inadvertently got into the supply chain when a Japanese subcontractor built parts of the aircraft. The manufacturer told the DoD that it would cost over $10 million and weeks, if not months, to take apart the offending assemblies and replace the items with U.S.-made ones, reassemble, test and reinstall everything. The DoD decided to grant the waiver to keep the much-delayed F-35s coming.
North Korea’s Kim Jong Un has urged his troops to be combat ready because war could break out without warning. Kim is paying a lot more attention to the troops because things are not going well in the military. Over the last few years the military has been forced to cut the amount of food soldiers receive, which has resulted in more troops sneaking out at night and stealing corn or rice from nearby farms during harvest.
The latest international corruption rankings put Somalia, Afghanistan and North Korea at the top of the list of the most corrupt countries on the planet, followed by Sudan, South Sudan, Libya, Iraq, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Syria, rounding out the top ten.
Iran reports that it has cleared 60% of the mines planted during the 1980s war with Iraq, but there are still 16 million mines along its border with Iraq. Even though the general locations of the minefields are well known and many of these mines are in thinly populated areas, they have caused over 300 casualties a year. Iran is recruiting more mine- clearing technicians to increase the rate at which all these old mines can be finally eliminated.
Picking up the pieces
China has made it clear to the world that North Korea is their responsibility and if the North Korean government collapses, China, not South Korea, will pick up the pieces. South Korea doesn’t agree, and this could be a big problem in the future. Growing unrest, corruption and privation continue to weaken the iron control that has long kept the North peaceful and the Kim family in control. North Korea wants to maintain armed forces capable of attacking, if not invading, South Korea and maintaining its own population in bondage.
Russia and Iran are quite pleased with the way they have played the Syrian situation, especially the deal to remove Syrian chemical weapons, which the Syrians can later rebuild. This removal will drag on for as long as it takes to defeat the rebels and, as long as the removal is in progress, the rebels will not get Western air support, no matter how many atrocities the Assads commit against pro-rebel civilians. The Assads continue bombing and shelling pro-rebel civilians on a large scale.
In early January a Taliban attack on an American base in Kabul, Afghanistan, failed when the bomb went off outside the entrance of the base; there were no American casualties. In the eastern Nangarhar province five Taliban suicide bombers attacked an American base; one American was killed in the first suicide blast, the first U.S. fatality of the year. The other four suicide bombers were killed in the ensuing fight.
At UN headquarters Russia used its veto to prevent the UN from protesting the increased number of air strikes against civilians in Syria. Most Syrian aircraft are Russian and Russia still provides parts and other supplies to keep these aircraft flying.
Drug cartel violence and tighter border crossing requirements by both Mexico and the U.S. continue to harm the economy of Mexican border cities. To make matters worse, the border towns are off-limits to U.S. military personnel stationed at nearby bases. In fact, travel to Mexico by active duty U.S. military personnel is severely restricted and the hotel, restaurant and bar businesses have suffered.
Enemies of the state
In December, the Chinese government released thousands of people who were sent to labor camps because of their political beliefs, which usually involved openly criticizing the corruption and incompetence of officials. For over 60 years anyone designated “enemies of the state” was sent to a labor camp for “reeducation,” as an alternative to execution. The government used the camps for slave labor and, since the 1990s, sent petty criminals there as well. The camps became a symbol of government corruption and repression; eliminating them has boosted government popularity. Though the camps were officially eliminated in late 2013, they had stopped sending people to them earlier in the year.
Syrian officials publicly thanked Russia, Iran and China for supporting the Assad government and making eventual victory over the Sunni rebels possible.
In 2013, 127 Americans died in Afghanistan, down 59% from 310 in 2012. Other foreign troop losses numbered 33 in 2013, and followed a similar pattern. In the last 13 years 2,105 Americans died in Afghanistan, and another 100 died in other parts of the region or from wounds after being flown out of Afghanistan. The loss rate, per 100,000 troops per year, is 70% less than in Viet Nam. Still, U.S. forces have been in Afghanistan a long time, and only about 14% of Americans support continued efforts. Historically, going back to the American Revolution, Americans start losing their willingness to support a war after about three years.
No easy solution
The drug gangs and their paid-for Taliban allies are depending on the departure of foreign troops from Afghanistan for their long-term survival. The fear is that, without the troops, Afghanistan will become a sanctuary in Central Asia for heroin production, Islamic terrorists and gangsters. If you want to know how that works out, look at Chechnya in the late 1990s and Somalia during the last decade. No one has come up with any cheap, fast or easy solution.
The unemployment rate has been higher during this presidency than in any other since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Afghanistan’s core problem is that there is no Afghanistan; it’s merely a collection of tribes more concerned about tribal issues than anything else. Ten percent of the population, mostly living in the cities and often working with the foreigners, believes in Afghanistan, the country; but beyond the city limits, it’s a very different Afghanistan that is motivated by growing prosperity brought on by a decade of relative peace. By Afghan standards, an unprecedented amount of cash has come into the country since September 11, 2001. Between economic growth, the growing heroin sales and foreign aid, plus fewer losses from violence, it’s been something of a Golden Age.
The Western arms embargo against China because of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre continues to provide evidence of being more evaded than complied with. Major military exporters like France and Germany are leading the way. European firms are particularly eager to drop the embargo and some, like France, are basically ignoring it. This is done most frequently by disregarding the installation of dual-use Western equipment in Chinese weapons systems.
It’s all tribal
The “war in Afghanistan” is more of a “Pushtun Tribal Rebellion,” and is being handled as such. Most NATO nations with troops in Afghanistan are willing to just walk away and deal with the fallout later. Afghanistan has become politically unpopular and the easiest way out for Western politicians is to get out and let their successors deal with the aftermath. Afghanistan has become another can foreign leaders are “kicking down the road.”
Having equal rights does not mean having equal talents, equal abilities or equal knowledge. It assuredly does not mean that everyone’s opinion about everything is as good as anyone else’s. And yet, this is enshrined as the credo of a fair number of people despite being obvious nonsense.
For most of the last decade, the majority of terrorist activity has occurred in three countries: Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. What these three nations have in common is a powerful minority of Sunni Arabs in Iraq and Pushtuns in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The violence in Afghanistan and Pakistan is linked by the presence of Pushtuns in both countries, but Pushtuns are a large minority in Afghanistan while in Pakistan Pushtuns are only 15% of the population. In some respects the Pushtun-sponsored terrorist violence is yet another attempt by the Pushtuns to carve out their own state. These efforts have failed for thousands of years, but the Pushtuns keep trying.
India and China have agreed to consult with each other on plans to build hydroelectric dams along the Brahmaputra River. This river begins in India at Arunachal Pradesh, which is claimed by China where it gets 85% of its water. The Chinese are building hydroelectric dams downstream and want to ensure that India does not reduce the water flow.
A lie doesn’t become truth, wrong doesn’t become right and evil doesn’t become good just because a majority accepts it. — author unknown
Russia and China signed a deal that obliges Russia to sell China up to 217 million barrels of oil a year through 2038, an increase of 20% the portion of Russian oil currently sold to East Asia. In 2009 Russia completed a 2,700-kilometer-long oil pipeline to northern China, built to move about 300 million barrels of oil a year. Russia currently produces over three billion barrels of oil per year, with most going to European customers.
Iraq continues to suffer from the usual massive corruption that cripples so many Arab states. This makes it difficult to crush the Sunni Arab Islamic terrorists who want Sunni minority rule restored. These Sunni Islamic terrorists have grown stronger because of the rebellion in neighboring Syria. That conflict has attracted Islamic terrorists from all over the world and the chaos has led to many Syrian army weapons being captured. Some of those heavy machine guns and portable missiles are showing up in western Iraq.
The Chinese are continuing their campaign of conquering real, or imagined, nearby “lost territories” by winning little victories in battles no one is willing to go to war over in the South China Sea, North Korea and along the Indian border. In the last few years China has taken control of sizable chunks of India and large swaths of the South China Sea, one tiny piece at a time. The opposition is organizing, but hasn’t come up with a workable defense. China keeps pushing and is making progress.
“Bureaucracy defends the status quo long past the time the quo has lost its status.” — Laurence J. Peter, Canadian educator
Many news items courtesy of strategypage.com & James Dunnigan. All material ©2014, StrategyWorld, Inc.