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Afghanistan Government Struggles to Keep Taliban Under Control

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

North Korea-South Korea: About 10 North Korean soldiers approached the Military Demarcation Line around 9:40 a.m. local, Monday, according to an official source.


"After a warning broadcast, the South Korean side fired about 20 rounds of warning shots," the official said.

The North Koreans didn't fire any shots back and retreated from the heavily fortified area -- near Paju City, northwest of Seoul -- around three hours after the initial confrontation, the official said.

Comment: This incident occurred in the same region as that on 19 October. The incident on 19 October involved an exchange of fire. The reason for the incidents remains unclear, but the timing of today's incident seems intended to show that the release of the two Americans does not signify weakness or a reduction in hostility.

Note: North Korean media have been silent about the release of the two US nationals over the weekend. The media also has been silent about the latest shooting incident near the MDL.

North Korea-Russia: Over the weekend, North Korea's Minister of the People's Armed Forces, Vice Marshal Hyon Yong-chol, met Russian President Putin in Moscow. The 8 November meeting was held on the sidelines of Hyon's visit to Russia to celebrate the 90th birthday of the last surviving Marshal of the Soviet Union and the Soviet Union's last defense minister, Dmitry Yazov.

North Korean state television reported that Hyon conveyed North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's greetings to the Russian president, which was responded with "deep gratitude."


"President Putin and comrade Hyon Yong-chol talked in an amicable atmosphere," the state media reported.

Comment: Improved ties with North Korea appear to be part of President Putin's focus on Asia, in reaction to Western sanctions because of the Ukraine crisis. North Korean leaders always have been closer to the Soviets than to China. The entire North Korean armed forces are patterned on Soviet forces as they existed when Kim Il-sung served in the Soviet Army.

Details of the meeting between Hyon and Putin have not been released. Hyon almost certainly discussed arms issues.

China-South Korea: Chinese President Xi Jinping and Republic of Korea President Park Geun-hye confirmed that the two Asian economic powers concluded talks establishing a far-reaching, bilateral free trade agreement, on the sidelines of the ongoing Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings.

"The establishment of the China-ROK free trade area is of landmark importance and will effectively promote regional integration of the Asia-Pacific," President Xi said during the meeting.

President Park also said the creation of the free trade area is good news for global economic recovery as well as for development and prosperity in Asia. "It is a day worth celebrating for both ROK and China," she said and promised the ROK will continue to work so that the agreement could enter into force as soon as possible. The technical negotiators said they will finish talks on the remaining technical issues by the end of 2014.


Comment: Today's announcement is the culmination of talks begun in May 2012, according to South Korean analysts.

The Chinese Commerce Ministry said the ROK free trade agreement is the most wide-ranging of all such agreements that China has signed with any country and covers the largest volume of bilateral trade. The Ministry said the agreement will cover 17 areas, including trade in goods and services, investment and trade rules, and topics such as e-commerce and government procurement. It said over 90 percent of goods traded between China and ROK will enjoy zero tariffs, accounting for more than 85 percent of the bilateral trade value. The total volume of trade is expected to rise to $300 billion by the end of this year.

This agreement upstages anything likely to result from the actual APEC meeting itself. Asnoted previously, the Chinese are peddling regional prosperity and stability and they seem to be selling.

Afghanistan: A series of bomb attacks in Kabul and other cities during the past two days has killed 11 police officers. One of the attackers detonated at the police headquarters in Kabul.

Comment: All of the attacks have targeted the Afghan police. The Taliban apparently have mounted an offensive against the most visible evidence of government authority.

In the most remote areas of Afghanistan, a police outpost is the only visible sign of a national government. Police pay is low. Their equipment is inadequate relative to the threat and the quality of personnel and training are poor. The job attracts recruits because of the opportunities for personal enrichment.


In the 13 years of fighting in Afghanistan, the police have taken most of the casualties of any security force, foreign or Afghan.

Still, Taliban attacks through the years have not deterred police recruitment. Policemen usually died trying to defend their district, not themselves. The Taliban usually let the police run away after a few exchanges of fire. The attacks in the past two days are different in that the police themselves are the targets. That strikes at the core principle of government authority. The inability of the government to protect itself, including its agents, undermines confidence that the government can protect its people more than overrunning a district center and trashing the national flag.

Nigeria: Today, a suicide bomber killed at least 47 students during a morning assembly of the student body in Potiskum. .

Police said a suicide bomber disguised in a school uniform carried out the attack at the Government Comprehensive Senior Science Secondary School in Potiskum. Another suicide bombing in Potiskum killed 30 people one week ago, when suspected Boko Haram fighters attacked a procession of Shia Muslims marking Ashura.

Comment: Boko Haram has not yet claimed responsibility for the attack, but the target is precisely the kind of instituiton of Western learning that Boko Haram considers to be forbidden in its interpretaton of Islam. This attack shows Boko Haram's reach beyond the border areas with Chad and Cameroon.


End of NightWatch


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