South Korea: Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesman Army Major General Kim Yong-hyun warned on 6 March, "If North Korea carries out provocations that threaten the lives and safety of South Koreans, our military will carry out strong and resolute retaliations."
The South Korean statement advised that if provoked by North Korea, the South would attack the North's 'command leadership.'
Comment: The language indicates the South has a decapitation strategy for dealing with North Korea. The South's media strategy against the North also is much improved. Threatening the leadership is a smart technique.
North Korea: North Korean media today quoted more generals and senior officials who reinforced the themes in the mass indoctrination program that is in progress.
More significant is the report by a Japanese news service that North Korean buses, trucks and automobiles are being covered with camouflage netting as a precaution against attack
Comment: The action of camouflaging civilian vehicles is highly significant, if it is confirmed. This is a civil defense measure that usually does not occur in isolation. It is part of a systematic process whose end state is conversion of the civilian population and economy from peacetime pursuits to increased defensive readiness for war.
Other measures in the process include testing air raid sirens; cleaning, preparing and provisioning air raid shelters; citywide evacuation drills; guards at public buildings; drills by units of the Worker-Peasant Red Guard; indoctrination of civil defense wardens and workers; activation of anti-aircraft sites by reservists and hundreds of related measures.
If North Korean leaders judge the threat of a US/South Korean attack or counter-attack is genuine, they will order evacuation of hospitals, sanitaria and schools and surge industrial production prior to mobilizing the reserves by ordering factory workers to report for military duty.
Foreign visitors should see or hear about these activities, if they are taking place. North Korean authorities easily can make Pyongyang appear like a city preparing for war in order to impress visitors about the gravity of the situation. Pyongyang is a showpiece for whatever status or extravagance the leadership directs.
However, increased civil defense activities outside Pyongyang are the best indicators of changes to civil normality. If civil defense preparations are observed in the industrial cities, such as Hungnam, Wonsan, Kimchaek, Sinuiju and Chengdu, then the civil defense system has been activated nationwide. That would justify an increase in regional tension.
Pakistan: Karachi businesses, shops, schools, and truck drivers went on an indefinite" general strike on the afternoon of 6 March to exert pressure on the government to arrest the extremists who perpetrated the bombing on Sunday that killed 50 people in a Shiite Muslim neighborhood in Karachi.
The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), the dominant political party in Sindh Province and which controls most of Karachi, called the strike. Pakistan's The News reported the strike was enforced by gunmen who fired shots in the air to force businesses to close. The gunmen also forced public transportation to stop and gasoline stations to close. Using similar tactics as those in Karachi, gunmen forced businesses to close in Hyderabad, Mirpurkhas and Nawabshah, also in Sindh Province.
During this Watch, however, the MQM withdrew the call for a general strike owing to a massive backlash from businesses, the population and the government.
The Supreme Court of Pakistan ordered the removal of senior police officials responsible for Karachi because of criminal negligence in the execution of their duty. The Chief Justice also ordered the Rangers, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, the Interior Ministry and provincial authorities to file reports on the security situation in Karachi when Court hearings resume on 8 March.
Comment: Violence in Karachi, a city of 21 million people from many ethnic and sectarian backgrounds, always serves the interests of some political party or is exploited to serve some political interests. Likewise, political interests almost always are based on ethnic issues.
Both were involved on Wednesday in Karachi, when the MQM tried to champion the cause of the Shiites in Karachi, many of whom are ethnic Hazaras from Afghanistan. It apparently was trying to counter the perception that the MQM, which also runs the Karachi city government, had neglected the Shiites.
In fact, the Supreme Court hearing made a mockery of the MQM's heavy-handed show of solidarity by its trenchant criticism of Karachi's law and order institutions and administration.
Violence may be expected to increase as national elections near, most likely in May.
Background note: The MQM is the third largest political party in Pakistan. It was formed in 1984 to represent the interests of the Muhajir community in Karachi. Muhajirs are the Urdu-speaking Muslims who were born in what is now India, but moved to Pakistan after separation in 1947. Former President Musharraf is a Muhajir.
Despite the size of the party, its electoral fortunes have declined somewhat, so that it is fourth in the number of seats it holds in the National Assembly and is second to the Pakistan People's Party in the Sindh Provincial Assembly. It has strong motives to try to take advantage of popular agitation over any issues in order to ensure control of Karachi and strengthen its political position in the provincial and national assemblies. On 6 March, its goons overreacted.
Chief Justice Chaudhry runs an extremely activist Supreme Court. One of the Justices ordered the Rangers, the 11,000-man paramilitary counter-terror force in Karachi, to begin operations to clean up the city, specifically to halt weapons smuggling.
Afghanistan: In Badakhshan Province, in far northeastern Afghanistan, Taliban insurgents killed 17 Afghan National Army soldiers and captured 23 others in two ambushes since Sunday.
Comment: Badakhshan Province has experienced only minor stress from insurgent activity in the past 11 years primarily because its population is mostly Tajik; the few Pashtuns live together in or near the provincial capital of Faizabad and because it is the farthest Afghan province from the Pashtun heartland.
Those factors are what make the incidents significant. The popular support base for any Taliban fighting group is small, as indicated by the inability of the Taliban to sustain anti-government operations in the province for more than ten years.
In December, the German Provincial Reconstruction Team, which is responsible for Badakhshan and Regional Command North, began the process of transitioning the security lead to Afghan forces in Badakhshan as part of the fourth tranche of provincial transitions.
This attack appears to be the first reported test of the security transition in Badakhshan. It also is a reminder of the Taliban threat. An absence of attacks does not mean the Taliban are not present.
Egypt: The Administrative Court on Wednesday ordered the suspension of Egyptian parliamentary elections because the Mursi government failed to afford the Supreme Constitutional Court a final review of the new electoral law, as required before enacting it.
Most commentators predicted this process will delay the elections, increase political confusion and intensify economic uncertainty.
Comment: The delay is a technicality over constitutional procedures that require deference to the court system in upholding the rule of law. The government almost immediately agreed. It denied there is a confrontation between the two branches of government, which appears to be the case. The reaction of the government suggests the technical error will be corrected rather quickly.
In Port Said, meanwhile, new clashes between police and protesters occurred on 6 March. Police and protesters lobbed rocks at each other under a volley of tear gas that caused several people to collapse. The reports did not mention an army presence.
Mali: Update. France announced on 6 March that a fourth French soldier had been killed during fighting against Islamist militants. The statement said that the soldier, with the 68th African Artillery Regiment based in Valbonne, had died in combat early Wednesday in eastern Mali, about 60 miles from the northern city of Gao. The statement did not mention jihadist losses.
Comment: Most of the recent fighting has occurred much farther to the north, northeast of Kidal. This is the first report of fighting near Gao. This is significant because it indicates there are at least two pockets of jihadists willing and able to attack the French and African forces.
End of NightWatch ###
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