As a test of route security, the U.S. sent two truck convoys from Afghanistan to Karachi, each carrying 25 shipping containers. Over the next two years, the U.S. will be moving over 100,000 containers of gear and over 60,000 vehicles out of Afghanistan as the U.S. withdraws most of its forces. Although the Pakistani route is cheaper, if Pakistan cannot provide security, then the more expensive northern route, via Asian and Russian railroads, will have to be used for the withdrawal. This would be a major economic loss for Pakistan.
NATO completed the deployment of six Patriot missile batteries to southern Turkey, a combined effort by Germany, Holland and the U.S., contributing two batteries each. A statement by NATO asserts that the deployment is defensive and is intended to improve Turkish air defense along the Turkey-Syria border.
Ban on air strikes
In an effort to reduce civilian casualties, Afghanistan president Karzai has banned Afghan security forces from calling in NATO air strikes. This could greatly increase police and army losses and discourage security forces from going after the Taliban and drug gangs. This order is another example of the influence that drug gangs have in the government; many senior government members have gotten rich off the drug trade, either via bribes or direct involvement.
Culture of violence
Afghan forces are taking over more of the security operations and making the Taliban and drug gangs very uncomfortable. The Afghan police and soldiers play by Afghan rules, which mean that they — like the Taliban and drug gangs — use kidnapping, torture and murder against their enemies. In many cases, Afghan security forces are out for revenge from past Taliban violence. The Taliban have responded with a sharp increase in attacks on the police and soldiers, especially assassination attempts against leaders.
China sent some mobile radiation monitoring teams to the area near its border with North Korea to check for any radiation from the North’s underground nuclear test. China already has 25 permanent automated radiation monitoring stations along the border and they showed no increase in radiation.
U.S. intel believes Egypt is again using Chinese and North Korea missile experts to improve Egyptian ballistic missiles. The U.S. has sanctioned China Precision Machinery Import-Export Corp. for illegal ballistic missile and technology exports; North Korea is not supposed to be exporting this stuff either, but they have never accepted any of the weapons-related export sanctions imposed. Recently, North Korea was suspected of flying in ballistic missile parts to Egypt.
Rampant blatant corruption
American aid auditors have asked that $20 billion in aid to Afghanistan be held back until the Afghan government actually does something about its rampant and, often, blatant corruption. Too much of the money never reaches the projects it was meant for; instead, the cash is stolen and usually shipped out of the country. Many American foreign aid specialists suggest that the U.S. more closely supervise the aid money, something Afghan officials strongly oppose, calling it an insult and an attack on Afghan sovereignty.
Down but not out
Hard times have fallen upon Somali pirates, as they have not captured a ship in several months. They captured only five ships in 2012; compare that to 25 in 2011, and 27 in 2010. Their lack of success is a direct result of improved security and armed guards aboard large commercial ships, as well as more aggressive anti-piracy patrol methods. The pirate’s mother ships are almost always caught and destroyed if they venture far from the Somali coast. At press time, pirates still held four ships (three from 2012, one from 2010) and 108 sailors hostage. Most of the pirate gangs have shut down, though several are trying to resolve their current obstacles. It is still dangerous to take a ship near the Somali coast.
Threat of the dragon
The sudden change in Russia’s Defense Ministry leadership last November was not expected to reverse a decade of military reforms, but that appears to be what is happening. Senior members of the Defense Ministry are advocating returning to the use of divisions, rather than brigades (a system pioneered in the West) and a large reserve force. The reason for this was the possibility of a large war in the east. Though it wasn’t mentioned, China is Russia’s only major foe.
Iran denies any involvement in smuggling weapons into Yemen, but there is now enough evidence against Iran that the UN is joining the investigation.
Lies and deceptions
Britain accused Russia of continuing to fly in weapons to Syria, despite their previous assurances that they would halt shipments. Britain was also unsuccessful in getting the EU to lift its sanctions on providing weapons to the rebels; however, they are providing “non-lethal” gear, such as protective vests, first aid kits and some electronics. The EU believes that the Arab Gulf States can provide all the weapons the rebels need, thus reducing the accusations by Muslims that Westerners are killing them. The accusations come anyway, and not supplying weapons only allows the Syrian government to kill more people. The big problem with the rebels isn’t weapons, it’s unity and coordination.
An opinion survey in Pakistan showed that 77% of the population had no confidence in the elected government, while 88% trusted the military. Support for the U.S. slipped from 92% two years ago to 73% now. The reason? The 2011 U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Some 55% of Pakistanis, young and old, believe that interactions between the West and Muslims are a threat to Pakistani security, and only 39% believe such interactions are beneficial. Most conservative Muslims cannot accept that Islam itself is the cause of the many problems suffered by Muslims, instead, the blame is placed on non-Muslims who must be attacking Muslims and causing all these problems.
The UN is paralyzed by Russian and Chinese vetoes regarding Syria but has kept itself busy dealing with the growing num-ber of refugees in addition to collecting information for war crimes indictments once the fighting is over. Most of the accused will be from the government, but, according to the UN, a growing number of rebel commanders have misbehaved on the battlefield.
Some 5,000 members of the far-right Greek Golden Dawn (neo-fascist, or neo-Nazi), party demonstrated in early February outside the U.S. Embassy in Athens, commemorating the 1996 Aegean crisis when Greece and Turkey clashed over the Imia islets. The U.S. intervened and ultimately flags of both nations were removed. Greek ultra-nationalists see the removal of the Greek flag as a defeat and they blame the U.S.
While visiting Great Britain, Pakistani leaders asked for donations of modern military equipment, so they could more effectively fight Islamic terrorists. Britain has long criticized the Pakistani military for using its weapons and equipment more against innocent civilians than against Islamic terrorists.
We’ll talk, maybe
The Iranian government now is willing to talk to the U.S. about their nuclear weapons program, but only if sanctions are halted. The U.S. refuses to go along with this because the Iranians would just conduct pointless talks while free to make up for lost oil sales. Meanwhile, Iranian leaders boast openly that nothing can stop them from developing nuclear weapons, and their only reason for not doing so is because the world would not approve. The official line remains that Iran is only developing technology for creating nuclear fuel from uranium, but, on the street, the average person has no doubt about the existence of a nuclear weapons pro-gram and is very much in favor of it.
Upset over dictatorship
Despite the boost in public support for their nuclear weapons program, Iranians are upset with the shortages and inflation caused by the new sanctions. In response, the government launched a heavy crackdown on journalists who dare to criticize, or even admit, that there are economic problems or Iranians who are unhappy with the religious dictatorship.
Israeli leaders believe Syria’s civil war is being prolonged by Iranian and Russian support for the Assads and Western refusal to back the rebels with military support. Western help had been withheld because so many of the powerful rebel factions are openly Islamic radicals and Western nations don’t want to risk giving money or weapons that will end up in the hands of the Islamic radicals and, eventually, be used against the West.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency reported that it has discovered another tunnel running from Mexico into Nogales, Arizona, with its exit some 200 meters inside the U.S. Over the last three years, various U.S. federal security agencies and state police have discovered 26 cross-border tunnels in Nogales.
Hamas has increased its efforts to indoctrinate the children in Gaza to be Islamic terrorists by creating a high school course dedicated to teaching basic combat techniques to teenage boys. Hamas wants all teenage boys who are physically capable to take the semester-long course, which consists of one training session a week. Obtaining competent volunteers for suicide attacks has always been difficult, but Hamas has compiled a lot of information on characteristics of high-quality volunteers and applies that knowledge in evaluating these high school students. The first 3,000 students recently completed the course that began last September.
No to legalization
In response to a question about moves in the U.S. to legalize marijuana use, Mexico’s newly elected president, Enrique Pena Nieto, stated he is opposed to legalizing marijuana because he believes its use leads to more addictive and destructive drugs.
Lawyers and politicians around the globe are making the argument that attacking terrorists who are not in uniform, using missile armed UAVs is immoral, illegal and should be more strictly regulated. Those who actually fight the wars have a hard time understanding the logic behind this accusation. After all, a UAV is not a robot, it is under control of human operators who identify the targets and pull the trigger. This is much more precise than previous methods.
Return of the Gulags
The Russia government held public celebrations of Soviet-era prison camps, widely known as the Gulag. The government made much of how the prison camps inspired inmates to be more patriotic, taught them how to cooperate with each other and respect war veterans, as about 10% of the prisoners were WWII veterans. New propaganda stresses how the camps taught inmates to be better people and portrayed prison guards and officials as heroes. In the three decades of its existence, the Gulag was feared and hated by most Russians. Now there is concern that the government might revive the Gulag to instill more patriotic attitudes and such.
The purpose of the Gulag was to get real or suspected troublemakers and threats to Soviet rule off the streets. The first of these slave labor camps appeared in 1930; they were shut down in 1960. Some five million people were sent to the Gulag; over 20% died there. Many who survived were disabled for life, or died at a young age as a result of their abuse. Former KGB officer and current Russian president Vladimir Putin has spent more than a decade trying turn Russia back into the police state it once was by eliminating local government, appointing provincial governors, nationalizing mass media and enacting laws that make it a crime to criticize the state.
The current Russian government is acting more and more like the autocratic rulers Russia suffered under for centuries. The FSB seems to act more like the palace guard than public servants, and the guards want more power, and are likely to get it, although there might be some strong resistance to reviving the Gulag.
“Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal.” — Martin Luther King Jr., “Why We Can’t Wait,” 1964
Dragon in space
China expects to launch 20 satellites this year and, by the end of the decade, have 200 satellites in orbit; about a fifth of the total and nearly half as many as the U.S. At that point, China expects to be launching 30 satellites a year, accounting for over a quarter of the worldwide launch capability. All this momentum has been the result of a quarter century of effort and an enormous spurt of activity in the last two years. From 1990-2010, China carried out 30 commercial satellite launches, putting 36 satellites in orbit; now they put up that many in 18 months.
“I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.” — James Madison
The third North Korean nuclear test was condemned by most all nations but none more so than by China. While always op-posed to North Korean nukes, China has never done anything about it; this time, however, the Chinese warned North Korea that if there were another test, there would be serious consequences. Cutting off Chinese aid and trade would be catastrophic for the North because China is their major and practically only trading partner. North Korea’s illegal exports, weapons, drugs and so on get out via China and closing that door would doom the North Korean government and lead to chaos.
A hard line approach
South Korea’s newly elected president, Park Geun-Hye, made it clear that she would take a hard line against North Korea and not encourage friendlier relations. This includes the new threat of a pre-emptive attack on North Korea if there were any suspicion that the North was going to use nukes. South Korea also confirmed that it had deployed a new cruise missile that can reach targets any-where in North Korea.
While most Arabs will admit they hate Israel, they deny that it has anything to do with anti-Semitism and has everything to do with the Palestinians. This is not true, as Arabs have long demonstrated hostility towards the Jews, something that is part of their religion. It’s in their scriptures, the stories of how Jews refused to support Mohammed, the founder of Islam. Long held grudges are popular in this part of the world.
Overcome and adapt?
The Taliban in Afghanistan is losing by NATO standards, but winning according to the Afghan way of calculating such things. It’s all about cultural differences, and it’s the reason Afghanistan is still the poorest country in Eurasia. The Afghans are very adaptable, despite being culturally conservative and inept when it comes to creating a culture that is capable of economic growth. Despite their warrior ethos, Afghans cannot handle professional soldiers. They can adapt to such disadvantages, which is exactly what they have been doing.
China commissioned a new type of destroyer, the 052C. The Changchun, a 5,700-ton ship is very similar to the American Aegis-equipped destroyers, such as the Burke-class. The Changchun is about 30% smaller than the Burkes, which entered service two decades ago. There appear to be eight such vessels under construction; the Changchun seems to have an improved Aegis-type radar and combat system.
Government prosecutors in Iran have begun conducting public amputations on convicted thieves; in addition, public whippings are also more common. These events are photographed and given wide publicity and the government hopes this will help reduce the rising crime rate.
North Korea ordered an increased state of military readiness in response to the latest UN sanctions. Movement across the country has been restricted and reservists have been called up. All this is theater to distract people from the fact that they are hungry and there isn’t much heat or electricity. The movement restrictions make it more difficult to move food and fuel to areas where it is most needed.
Preparing for war
Over the last five years Chinese submarines have been going to sea a lot more, at least the diesel-electric boats have been. This is worrying to other nations in the region, and the U.S. Navy, because it means China is training its submarine crews for war. Previously, the Chinese kept their fleet in port most of the time because it was cheaper; in wartime, however, it meant that Chinese warships would not last long against a better-trained fleet. Now the Chinese are building better quality subs and feel they may have a fighting chance if they have better prepared crews as well.
Israel’s leaders asked the U.S. to halt weapons shipments to Egypt until something can be done about the violent, anti-Israeli attitudes of Egypt’s newly elected leaders. Even Mohammed Morsi, Egypt’s new president, has been seen on video making “Israel must be destroyed” speeches as recently as 2010. The U.S. believes they can persuade Morsi to change his attitude now that his Moslem Brotherhood is in power. Although Morsi is going through the motions of making such a shift, he still talks to his followers as if nothing has changed. Meanwhile, Morsi is acting more and more like just another Egyptian dictator, triggering a growing number of demonstrations against the new government.
China has denied Japanese accusations that a Chinese frigate pointed its targeting radar at a Japanese warship on January 30th. This occurred during a training exercise in the East China Sea near the disputed (between China, Japan and Taiwan) Senkaku islands. China has been pushing its claims more aggressively and Japan has been pushing back, which was why Chinese and Japanese warships were so close to each other.
As the war continues
Syria’s rebellion is now largely a war of raids, roadblocks and sieges. The government still has a combat edge with its artillery, armor and warplanes, but the rebels are bolder and more numerous. Recently the rebels have been more active attacking and eliminating government roadblocks, making it easier to get around and closing roads to government forces and supplies. This war of roads and sieges of army bases has forced the government to move its most dependable units back to defend Damascus, which is under increased assault by rebels who attack checkpoints around and inside the city. Islamic radical groups continue to carry out suicide bombings in government-held neighborhoods.
Dragon ups training
The Chinese military continues to increase its training, meaning combat pilots spending more time in the air. Their air force is using more Western-style training, using less scripted training flights and more unexpected or uncertain situations for pilots. Warships frequently travel into international waters, often near foreign shores that rarely have seen Chinese warships before. The army is staging more frequent and realistic training exercises in all weather conditions. Of particular note is the growing use of long dis-tance movement by road, air or ship and much more attention paid to logistics.
Revert to the past
With the impending absence of foreign troops, Afghanistan soon will revert to its usual coalition of tribal and warlord militias providing security in return for a license to steal. Afghans have long learned to cope by either joining in, getting out of the way or making the best of a bad situation. Afghanistan could be rich with law, order and education, but tradition and their culture of violence and tribalism are difficult to overcome. Those with education and skills find it more practical to just get out; those who remain keep the an-cient culture of poverty and violence going.
China surpasses U.S.
China surpassed the U.S. as the largest trading nation in 2012. Chinese imports and exports totaled $3.87 trillion in 2012, compared to the U.S. at $3.82 trillion. However, if you count services, the U.S. still leads, with a total of $4.93 trillion. The U.S. GDP for 2012 was $15 trillion with China at $7.3 trillion. China’s annual GDP growth is slowing, from 10% to 7%-8%; U.S. growth is much lower, more like 2%. For 70 years the U.S. has been the largest trading nation in the world, but China expects to surpass the U.S. in GDP in the next two decades.
Slaves or prisoners
“Socialists can provide you with shelter, fill your belly with bacon and beans, treat you when you’re ill, all the things guaranteed to a prisoner or a slave.” — Ronald Reagan
Many news items courtesy of strategypage.com & James Dunnigan. All material ©2013, StrategyWorld, Inc.