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NightWatch For the Night of 7 June 2018


NightWatch

For the Night of 7 June 2018

India-Jammu and Kashmir State

India is considering extending the ceasefire.  On 7 June The Hindu published, “Buoyed by the security agencies’ assessment of the ‘Ramzan ceasefire or cease-ops’, the Jammu and Kashmir government is expected to push for a two-month extension of the ceasefire.” The issue will be on the agenda during Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s visit, which began on 7 June.

The Hindu reported that the first three weeks of the Ramzan (Ramadan) ceasefire registered just three casualties, which include two civilians and one Army soldier. Security sources reported a 90% drop in security incidents, compared to the corresponding period in March and April.

The most significant incident was a clash in Kupwara district in which seven “infiltrators” from Pakistan were killed.

            

            Comment:  The drop in security incidents indicates that government counter-militant and counter-terrorist operations are responsible for most of the violent incidents in Kashmir. That is a plus because it implies that the terrorists are being defeated and that the security forces are obtaining a steady stream of intelligence from the population.

Those insights imply that the Army and police relationships with the Kashmiri people are not as bad as the Kashmiri hot heads and political activists claim. Whatever the case, local residents who have been interviewed in the past three weeks have expressed appreciation for the respite.

A likely contributor to the lull in infiltration from Pakistan is the unsettled political situation in Pakistan in advance of elections on 25 July.  A caretaker government is in charge and it requires a stable security situation to ensure elections are held on time.

An extension of the ceasefire through June and July would signal India will not take action to disrupt the political process in Pakistan. India would benefit because late June is when the annual pilgrimage occurs to the Hindu temple of Amarnath, northeast of Srinagar. Thousands of Indians travel through Kashmir to pay homage at the Amarnath cave.

This is tonight’s good news.

Afghanistan

Afghan President Ghani announced an unconditional temporary ceasefire. On 7 June, President Ashraf Ghani announced the temporary ceasefire with the Taliban would last until 20 June. The ceasefire would last through the last week of Ramadan and cover the Eid al-fitr holiday.

Press analysis noted that this would be the first ceasefire during Eid since the US invasion in 2001. The US forces in Afghanistan said they would honor the ceasefire, although they seconded Ghani’s stipulation that it did not extend to the Islamic State and other terrorist groups.

A Taliban response to the announcement has not been reported.

            Comment:  This is the second unilateral recent action that Ghani has taken to try to bring the Taliban to talks. In February, he offered unconditional peace talks and to recognize them as a legitimate political entity.

The Taliban rejected his prior offers. They probably will reject this as well. A primary target set for the spring offensive is foreign forces who do not observe Eid.

Yemen-UN

The UN is preparing a new peace proposal.  The new UN agreement is not yet final, but some of its terms have been leaked.

 According to the leaks, the plan involves government forces taking control of the country and militias disarmed – including the Houthis — in return for political legitimacy and representation in a transitional government.

“Heavy and medium weapons including ballistic missiles shall be handed over by non-state military actors in an orderly and planned fashion,” the report states, according to Reuters.

“No armed groups shall be exempt from disarmament.”   The disarmament would include Houthi’s ballistic missile arsenal.  In return, the Saudi and United Arab Emirates (UAE) armed forces would halt their bombing of Houthi positions.

UN envoy Martin Griffiths is expected to reveal the peace plan mid-June.

            Comment:  The timing of this proposed plan evidently is intended to forestall a blood bath in Hodeidah. The Houthis, the Yemen government and the Saudi-led coalition are unlikely to agree to any plan until the status of Hodeidah is decided.

If the coalition forces seize Hodeidah, the Yemen government would have little incentive to reach a compromise with the Houthis. If Hodeidah holds out or is internationalized, neither side has an incentive to compromise. Plus, the trade of ballistic missiles for a bombing halt is an asymmetrical proposition that benefits the Houthis more than the Saudis.

Syria

The US supports another force in northern Syria.  The US reportedly wants Saudi, UAE and Jordanian military presence in Syria. Sputnik reported that delegates from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Jordan met with representatives of Arab tribes on a US military base south of Kurdish-controlled Kobane. The delegates discussed forming Sunni-led military forces in northern Syria, according to the Sputnik interview with head of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Party.

            Comment:  This is the second recent reference to this program. The new initiative appears to be the replacement for or the successor to the Syrian Democratic Forces, minus the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection/Defense Unit.  Its prospective formation might be one of the reasons for the US Secretary of Defense’s assurance that the US will not abandon the Syrian Democratic Forces that defeated the Islamic State, whom the Turks supported.

Formation of yet another combatant in the Syria civil war will take more time than appears to be available for the project.  The Turks are determined to press their offensive in northern Syria to the Iraqi border.

Israel-Syria

Israel is prepared to expand its target sets. Speaking at a public event in London, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu discussed the war in Syria and the Iranian presence. In a warning to Syrian President Assad, he said, “Assad has to consider this: when they waged this horrific civil war Israel did not intervene…Now the war is nearly over he invites Iran in? He is no longer immune. If he fires, we’ll destroy his forces.”

            Comment:  Netanyahu was grandstanding, but his position is consistent with Israel’s policy towards Iranians in Syria. Assad has defended their presence, which makes Syrian forces targets.  They already have been targets by their proximity to Iranian facilities in Syria.

Assad’s forces need a break. Even the Russians appreciate that. Assad is poorly advised to pick a fight with Israel over Iran.

It is curious that Assad is not as aggressive about defending Syria against the Turks, who still want to overthrow his government, as he is against Israel. Through the civil war, Syria has continued to cooperate with Iran in supplying Lebanese Hizballah and in allowing Iran to build facilities at Syrian bases. Assad cooperated in this even when his government was in danger of collapsing before the Russian intervention in September 2015.

End of NightWatch for 7 June.

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