India-Pakistan: Update. Indian and Pakistan troops on Saturday night, 12-13 January, traded gunfire along the Line of Control (LoC) in Poonch sector in Jammu and Kashmir state..
"There was a movement of six to seven persons close to the LoC - - opposite Krishagati sub-sector in Poonch sector," an Indian Army spokesman said. There are no reports of casualties.
News sources reported that Indian and Pakistan military officials are to meet on 14 January to defuse the situation.
Comment: All of the security incidents during the past week have taken place in a single area, Poonch District. Open sources have provided no details about what might have provoked the exchanges of fire along the LoC in that district, other than militant infiltration from Pakistan.
The good news is that the handful of firefights has remained localized in Poonch District and its border crossing sites. No sources have reported a general increase in military activity along the entire LoC, which would constitute an indicator of general war. Finally, the civilian and military leaders in India and Pakistan are determined to keep the Poonch fighting localized.
Syria: Syrian regime forces have captured most of the strategic Damascus suburb of Daraya, a Syrian government official said on 12 January.
Comment: Daraya is one of the first districts of greater Damascus to rebel against the Alawite government of President Asad. It is mostly populated by Sunnis.
It is unclear what it means to "capture" a large urban area, but apparently the government judges it has reduced rebellion in that suburb to a manageable level. If so, that would be a significant accomplishment.
Mali-France: Last Friday, France began its direct intervention in the Malian civil war, at the request of the Bamako government after Islamists, terrorist and jihadis captured a key town on the road from the north to Bamako. The immediate French objective was to stop the jihadis at Konna and to deter them from moving farther south to capture Bamako. Konna had been the boundary between the Islamist and government held regions.
French Rafale fighter jets bombed Islamist rebel targets in central Mali for three days. With French Air Force support, Malian forces - almost certainly with French ground forces --recaptured Konna on Saturday, a day after it was seized by Islamist rebels.
A Malian rebel spokesman said the French also bombed targets in the towns of Gao, Lere and Douentz, over the weekend.
France's Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said French intervention on Friday had prevented rebels from seizing Bamako itself. He said air raids would continue in the coming days. He also said that France has deployed about 550 soldiers to Mali, split between Bamako and the town of Mopti, 500 km northeast, as part of "Operation Serval" - named after an African wildcat.
The French foreign minister made it clear that France was now targeting Islamist bases in the north of Mali and said Algeria, which shares a long border with Mali, had given permission for its air space to be used for bombing raids "without limit".
Islamist rebels reportedly were abandoning Timbuktu and other northern towns to try to escape the French air attacks for which they have no defense.
Comment: Understandably, French leaders have provided limited details about the size of the land and air forces committed to Operation Serval and the bases from which the air forces are operating. France has multiple staging options, from Senegal to Chad. At least one squadron each of Rafale and Mirage fighters and probably a regiment of French ground forces have been committed to defend Bamako and drive the Islamists from northern Mali.
The speed and apparent accuracy of the French Air Force attacks indicate French military intelligence has been following the situation closely and provided French Air Force targeteers with sufficiently detailed intelligence about Islamist activities to support a week of air attacks.
The French obviously also performed detailed contingency planning and were ready when the orders came from the President.
Another point is that President Hollande, a socialist, is not like ex-President Sarkozy who was reluctant to intervene in security problems in Franco-phone Africa. Hollande has ordered timely and strong military action to prevent the capture of Bamako. In this, he has received swift support from multiple former French colonial states, much faster than the UN or the African regional organizations were able to manage on their own.
The French government has ordered a general increase in vigilance by French citizens, including those in Africa, against a Muslim backlash.
Mali-France-UK: The first Royal Air Force C17 cargo aircraft arrived at a Paris today to help French military logistics in support of the effort to defeat the Islamist rebels in Mali.
The first of two C17s will load French armored vehicles and other equipment for delivery to Mali on Monday. A second C17 will be used to establish a logistics shuttle between Paris and Bamako to support French troops. No UK troops would be deployed in a combat role, A UK spokesperson said.
The US, Denmark and other NATO states also are supporting the French and Malians.
Comment: The BBC reported this help for France is part of the "pooling and sharing" arrangement for increasingly scarce military resources pursuant to a defense agreement signed by both countries. The French Air Force lacks the heavy lift and long range capability of the RAF's C17s.
Mali-African states: The following states have committed a battalion of ground troops to the effort to recapture northern Mali. Others may follow.
End of NightWatch ###
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