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According to a special report on Afghanistan prepared by KGS NightWatch, the number of clashes in October remained elevated at 701. The highlight of the month was the relative calm in Kabul and Parwan Provinces in central Afghanistan. That contrasted sharply with a surge of attacks in Kandahar, the setting for the latest Coalition offensive. 16 of the 34 provinces account for up to 90 percent of the fighting. The Pashtun heartland showed the sharpest deterioration. At current force levels backed by air power, the security situation in Afghanistan should be containable. For the full report, visit KGS NightWatch.com.
WikiLeaks released more than 250,000 US embassy and consulate cables to The New York Times and other media. They include candid views of world leaders, foreign government negotiations and assessments of nuclear and terrorist threats. This could prove vastly more damaging to US interests and security than the tactical reports leaked earlier this year. State Department reports often describe long-standing issues of leadership, political conditions, and highly privileged conversations. While most information will have little value, the volume is so large that it will certainly reveal thousands of highly insightful and embarrassingly confidential assessments.
Afghan United Nations Ambassador Zahir Tanin recently asked the UN Security Council to remove 10 Taliban members from the list of individuals in the Taliban and al Qaida subject to UN sanctions. He added that reconciliation and reintegration of former combatants is crucial for lasting peace and security in Afghanistan. Speaking at an open U.N. Security Council meeting, Tanin asked the sanctions committee to consider removing other names submitted by Afghan President Karzai's government. This is a significant effort to create an atmosphere favorable to talks with the Taliban. It might not work, but it is noteworthy.
According to defector sources, North Korean Authorities have begun a purge of corrupt senior officials on the orders of the heir apparent, Kim Jung-un. The crimes under investigation include smuggling and allowing people to flee the country. This is one of the ways a new team makes room for its own people. In the first years of his tenure, Kim Jong-il supported constant purges of party and military officials who were opposed to reigning family succession in an otherwise communist state, and survived several assassination attempts and mutinies. The ensuing tyranny was harsh and long lasting. The next successor's advisors are likewise taking no chances with opposition.
A UN report released on Friday found that North Korea is supplying banned nuclear and ballistic missile equipment to Iran, Syria and Myanmar using surreptitious means to avoid international sanctions. A UN committee called for heightened vigilance to stop the nuclear trade and for investigation into the sophisticated means used by North Korea to avoid detection. Weapons, missiles and dated nuclear technology are the top three hard currency earners for North Korea. The North is desperate due to dire economic conditions and has no alternative but to try to export the only items it makes that have a market.
Iraqi politicians recently made progress in breaking the political deadlock that had prevented formation of a government, despite a walkout by the Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc. Parliament has reappointed Jalal Talabani as President and elected a Sunni Arab from the Iraqiya bloc as Speaker of Parliament. Talabani re-appointed Nuri al Maliki as Prime Minister, enabling him to begin selecting a cabinet. Some commentators have asserted a new government will help reduce sectarian violence. None have explained how that is likely to occur since the Sunni-backed party obtained no strong power position in the new political arrangement despite winning a plurality in the March elections.
An Afghan national army soldier recently fired on foreign troops at a military compound in Sangin district, Helmand province, Afghanistan, after which he sought refuge with the Taliban. A Taliban spokesman said they took him to a safe location. The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force's press office said it had received information about the incident and had launched an investigation to ascertain its veracity. The ISAF will release further details once the investigation is complete. As noted previously, defection to the Taliban can be contagious. If it takes root among the Pashtuns, it could become unstoppable.
Several high-ranking Taliban leaders met in late October to discuss their conditions for ending the war in Afghanistan, an unnamed source close to the Taliban said. According to local press reports, leaders agreed on seven conditions that would be presented if the West asked for talks. The source also said leaders want to open a dialogue with Washington before the government in Kabul joins. The authenticity of the overture as a Taliban action is not confirmed, and there are grounds to suspect it is not genuine, such as the omission of the usual condition that all foreign forces withdraw before negotiations can begin. For more on this story, visit KGSNIGHTWATCH.com.
The Indian Air Force is upgrading its capabilities in the northeastern region of the country by revamping eight advanced landing grounds and improving major airfields to enable them to receive more modern aircraft. The upgrade is part of the Modernization of Air Field Infrastructure project. The primary threat in eastern India is from China. A year ago Prime Minister Singh visited Arunachal Pradesh State in eastern India, which borders China and which China claims as "southern Tibet." Singh also announced upgrades to army facilities there, plus the basing of 50,000 to 60,000 additional soldiers in two army divisions.
North Korean Cabinet Premier Choe Yong-rim is visiting northeastern China to step up joint economic projects, according to unnamed diplomatic sources. Choe's trip is the third high level visit to China related to North Korean manufacturing enterprises. Cumulatively, the reports indicate North Korea and China have reached an agreement about conducting an experiment in North Korean capitalism in northeastern China. If such an experiment is in progress and makes a profit, it could lead to Chinese-style economic changes in North Korea, the world's last "Stalinist" system.