Commentary on the economic , geopolitical and simply fascinating things going on. Served occasionally with a side of snark.
Monday, March 24, 2014
War watch March 24 , 2014 --- Afghanistan - Election Monitors Flee Afghanistan After Hotel Attack NDI, OSCE Withdraw Just Two Weeks Ahead of Vote ..... Iraq - Clashes Spread to Eastern Iraq ; 98 Killed, 34 Wounded ....... Syria - Fighting in Beirut: Syria Rivals Square Off One Killed, 10 Wounded
Taliban winning their game of pre- election intimidation.....
Last week’s attack on a Kabul luxury hotel, which left nine people killed, have also led two of the three international election monitor groups to withdraw their delegations from Afghanistan, just two weeks ahead of the election.
The National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) have both withdrawn their teams after the attack. The NDI had an observer killed in the attack.
The OSCE has said it hasn’t decided whether or not it will cancel their observation mission, but has withdraw their staff for the time being to Turkey, pending a decision.
The European Union’s monitoring mission is still in Afghanistan, but the loss of the other two would be a major blow to the legitimacy of the election, already in serious doubt after the scandals in recent election.
As the U.S. military prepares to leave Afghanistan after nearly 13 years of conflict with the Taliban, three visiting U.S. congressmen had to endure a statement from Afghan president Hamid Karzai that was released while they were in Kabul.
Citing “the free will of the Crimean people,” Karzai’s office said, “We respect the decision the people of Crimea took through a recent referendum that considers Crimea as part of the Russian Federation.” To date, only Syria and Venezuela have taken a similar position.
The New York Timessuggests the Afghan move is linked to the fact that Russia “has been increasingly active in offering development aid. Given Russia’s heavy influence on countries along Afghanistan’s border, maintaining a long-term relationship with the Kremlin is seen as essential to Afghan foreign policy. Moscow is also ramping up its investment in Afghanistan. It is rebuilding the relics of the Soviet occupation and promoting its own political and cultural prowess.”
Indeed, Saturday’s Washington Post has an important article on the changing of the guard in Afghanistan:
“In Afghanistan, Russian officials point to their development activities as a counterexample to U.S. aid projects, which many Afghans criticize as wasteful and misguided. . . . Many Afghans, including President Hamid Karzai, praise the Soviet model even though they fought a bloody 10-year war against the country’s army, which invaded in 1979 to support an unpopular communist government.
“The Soviet money went to the right place. They were efficient in spending their money and doing it through the Afghan government,” Karzai said in an interview with The Washington Post this month.
The irony here, of course, is rich. Afghanistan was indeed invaded by the Soviets in 1979, but that is now conveniently forgotten by the Karzai regime. It is no doubt grateful the new Russian development aid is being spent “through the Afghan government,” a euphemism for the enormous corruption and bribery Karzai’s government is famous for. For some years, the U.S. tried to bribe the Karzai regime into doing its bidding. Ultimately, they failed. It seems the U.S. is not only clumsy at nation building, but also can’t seem to get the hang of “nation bribing.”
The province’s health department released the number of casualties they have, so far, logged during the three months of military activity in the province. They report that 336 people have been killed and 1,562 have been wounded.
Syrian rebel factions have made much of their offensive against the coastal Latakia Province, the ancestral homeland of President Assad’s family. So far it has meant taking over remote towns along the coast and other relatively unimportant territory.
Kassab and its surrounding villages are Armenian Christians, and their value is primarily because of their location near the Turkish border. Rebel factions that control border crossings are not only able to smuggle in arms for themselves, but are able to demand a cut when other factions use those crossings.
The reports of wholesale killings of locals and mass evacuations among the Christian population is in stark contrast to the Christian minorities in the territory of rival al-Qaeda faction al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), which has gotten the Christians to agree to a Jizya tax in return for a promise of protection.
Sectarian violence has not traditionally been a huge problem for Lebanon, which has organized its political system around a careful power-sharing agreement among Sunnis, Shi’ites and Christians. Syria has changed everything, however.
Fighting is now common on the Syrian frontier, and also in the northern city of Tripoli. Today, sectarian fighting also broke out in the capital of Beirut, where one was killed and 10 were wounded in fighting between pro-rebel and pro-Assad groups.
Lebanon’s military has deployed around the city, particularly in Sunni neighborhoods where some of the clashes were worst. The fighting was between the Arab Movement Party, a pro-Assad faction, and unnamed “Sunni gunmen.”
The army’s ability to tamp down fighting is very much in doubt, as they have struggled to handle similar violence in places like Tripoli, where a new sectarian street-battle erupts seemingly several times a month.