Kurdish Militias Gain Ground Against Islamic State

Posted: Nov 21, 2014 12:01 AM

North Korea: On 20 November, North Korean media published a threat to bolster its nuclear weapons capabilities and to conduct more tests, in reaction to the UN resolution on human rights violations in North Korea.

A UN committee on Tuesday adopted the resolution urging the Security Council to refer the North's rights situation to the International Criminal Court (ICC). It's the first time a UN resolution included the provision that the North's absolute leader Kim Jong Un could be targeted by prosecutors. Before the UN vote, a North Korean envoy threatened a nuclear test.

On Thursday, the North Korean Foreign Ministry called the resolution's approval a "grave political provocation," saying it was orchestrated by the US. In fact, the resolution was drafted by the European Union and Japan.

Comment: The only other sitting national leader for whom the ICC has an outstanding warrant of arrest is Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir. The UN's referral of North Korea to the ICC apparently sparked the latest North Korean tantrum and threat, but it is not clear how nuclear testing relates to a resolution on human rights violations. The North's leaders seem to think their acts of petulance have significance.

Syria: Even with limited US air support, the Kurdish fighters at Kobani have blunted the offensive by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and captured most of Kobani. On Tuesday, the Kurds also captured six ISIL-controlled buildings in Kobani and confiscated a large amount of weapons and ammunition, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

About 250 ISIL fighters remain in Kobani, concentrated in the southeastern corner of the town, according to a Syrian Kurdish militia commander from Kobani. "They will probably be finished in four or five days."

Nevertheless, the Kurds say it will likely take weeks and possibly months to clear the militants from the area, in part because of snipers, roadside bombs and explosive-rigged buildings. ISIL also seized scores of villages outside Kobani that must be secured, the Kurds said.

Comment: Kurdish militia, most of effective of whom were reportedly Kurdish communist insurgents or their Syrian supporters, beat back ISIL with limited US air support. This shows the fundamental military weakness of ISIL. ISIL fighters were drawn into a killing zone for US Air Force attacks and Kurdish militia operations. They appear to have appreciated the extent and lethality of the trap only in the last few weeks.

The fight at Kobani reinforced the national identity of Kurds in all countries. They are the biggest winners from this fight. The US did enough to avoid international ignominy.

Ukraine: Russia urged Ukraine's leaders on Wednesday to talk directly to separatists to end the conflict in the east.

"We are calling for the establishment of stable contacts between Kiev and Donbass representatives with the aim of reaching mutually acceptable agreements," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in a policy address to the lower house of parliament in Moscow.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk accused Moscow of trying to push the Kyiv government into recognizing the separatists' republics of Donetsk and Luhansk. Speaking at a government meeting, he declared Kyiv would not speak directly to the separatists and repeated the phrase slowly in Russian for emphasis, saying: "We will not hold direct talks with your mercenaries."

Comment: With Russian military assistance and volunteers, the separatists have created a text-book fragmentation scenario. Ukraine's immediate goal must be to equalize the security situation by restoring a military force ratio that prevents formal secession by the two eastern Ukrainian people's republics. Thus far, the Russians have introduced forces and resources that favor the separatists, but not to the extent that they can be independent.

Kyiv's only hope for ending the fragmentation of Ukraine by the two renegade republics is for large scale Western military assistance that shifts the military ratio in favor of the Kyiv government. No evidence remotely suggests NATO states will provide the military assistance Kyiv requires for that end state.

Instead the European states most likely will work around the political and geographic fragmentation issues in order to try to do business with Moscow and Kyiv.

Nigeria: The Nigerian military has responded quickly to recover Gombi and several other communities in the northeast that Boko Haram fighters seized last week.

A spokesman for the Nigerian defense headquarters said Wednesday, "Troops are in full control of Gombi, Pelia & Hong as operations to clear all areas infested by terrorists continue. Many of them are being captured, as some also die. Weapons and equipment are also being recovered, mopping up operations are currently ongoing in the general area."

The communities fell under the control of Boko Haram insurgents last week. Local sources said normality had returned to the areas and that at least 10 soldiers and scores of Boko Haram militants died in the fighting.

Military authorities deployed helicopter gunships and a large number of troops at Gombi to contain a surprise turn-out of large number of insurgents in the area after Mubi, Adamawa State's second largest town, was retaken from them.

Comment: Some Nigerian military commanders and forces have been effective in quickly countering recent attacks by Boko Haram. The commanders of those forces are head and shoulders above most Nigerian army units. For example, in the latest limited success, the operational commander understood the value of and applied helicopter gunship support.

Quick, powerful and local counter-attacks by superior forces appear to be the most effective responses to Boko Haram attacks.

The performance of the Nigerian units involved in the latest operations provides some optimism that Boko Haram can be blunted and eventually herded back into Chad or into Fulani tribal areas. The key point is that Boko Haram is vicious, but unable to withstand an organized military force, especially if it has US, UK or other Western military advisors.

Correction: Last night's edition incorrectly identified the forces filling the security vacuum at Aleppo as Iraqi. They are Syrian army and pro-Syrian government forces.

End of NightWatch


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