Night Watch

North Korea: On 27 February North Korea fired four short-range missiles from one of the east coast firing ranges.

Comment: South Korean officials suggested the firing was protest against Allied exercises. North Korea batch produces most of its military equipment and periodically during the month it must test missiles and artillery rounds for quality control and sometimes for crew training. The North can manipulate the timing of the tests for the benefit of its propaganda, but the tests occur regularly regardless of the security atmosphere.

Thailand: The leader of the anti-government protest movement said Thursday he is willing to negotiate to end the political crisis, if the prime minister is willing to talk with him live, one-on-one, on every national television station.

Comment: This appears to be the first break in the political impasse. The timing suggests that the army chief's statement this week influenced the opposition leader's offer. The prime minister has not yet responded.

Pakistan: Pakistani news services reported that the security forces are poised to launch a full-scale offensive in North Waziristan Agency (NWA) if talks with the Pakistani Taliban fail. An unidentified senior government official said reinforcements would not have to be sent into the area because the troops already are deployed there and only would have to be repositioned for what he said would be a "very visible operation."

Comment: The government suspended peace talks after a Pakistani Taliban faction detonated a bomb in Karachi that killed 12 police officers last week and another group announced it had executed 23 paramilitary soldiers who were kidnapped in June 2010.

In the past week, Pakistan Air Force combat aircraft have attacked targets in Waziristan, in an apparent warning of additional military operations unless the Pakistani Taliban attacks stop and negotiates in good faith.

Large, visible punitive operations in the tribal agencies have had little success for many reasons. A key one is that they always must rely on local paramilitary forces for intelligence and combat support. That dependency invariably defeats operational security, undermines effectiveness and limits success.

The paramilitary forces are recruited from and live in the agency so they have little incentive to cooperate in operations against their own tribe or neighbors. A big military show that stalled would embolden the Pakistani Taliban and ensure no resumption of talks.

Night Watch

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