Belmont Club

Good news, bad news

The good news out of Afghanistan is the agreement to reopen the logistic routes through Pakistan. The bad news is that the Taliban are going to make millions charging for it.

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – As the United States trumpeted its success in persuading Pakistan to end its seven-month blockade of supplies for NATO troops in Afghanistan, another group privately cheered its good fortune: the Taliban.

One of the Afghan war’s great ironies is that both NATO and the Taliban rely on the convoys to fuel their operations — a recipe for seemingly endless conflict.

The insurgents have earned millions of dollars from Afghan security firms that illegally paid them not to attack trucks making the perilous journey from Pakistan to coalition bases throughout Afghanistan — a practice the U.S. has tried to crack down on but admits likely still occurs.

Meanwhile, in Syria, the good news is that the Assad regime continues to collapse. The bad news is that in the process, some of its chemical weapons may have already fallen into the hands of the Free Syrian Army. Karen Kaya at Long War Journal has a report and video showing the FSA in possession of at least some chemical detection and protection equipment.

A July 27 posting on a Turkish jihadist website claims in a short statement and video that the Free Syrian Army has obtained chemical weapons equipment from a military base in Aleppo that belonged to President Bashir al Assad’s army.

The video, which is titled, “Chemical Weapons Equipment belonging to Assad Forces,” shows images of rebels holding gas masks and what they claim are biological and chemical weapons equipment that they found at a military base following clashes in Aleppo. A written statement above the video claims that Abu Ali, a Free Syrian Army commander, said Assad’s military had left the area in a rush and had not had time to take the equipment with them …

The posting came four days after the regime issued an unprecedented threat to use chemical and biological weapons against any “foreign aggression,” after having characterized the rebels as “foreign terrorists.” …

This raises the question of whether Syria is losing control of its weapons stockpiles amid the chaos there. Furthermore, increasing numbers of videos are popping up showing jihadist groups loyal or sympathetic to al Qaeda, indicating al Qaeda involvement within the Syrian resistance. The prospect of al Qaeda-related groups obtaining chemical and biological weapons is considered one of the greatest threats that the world faces today. [For a list of jihadist groups emerging in Syria, see LWJ report, Army of Islam fighter from Gaza killed in Syria.]

As the Long War Journal notes, there are several jihadhist groups emerging in Syria.  Good news is welcome, but it seems that every ray of sunshine has a leaden lining. The New York Times reports that the Turks are terrified they are witnessing the emergence of a major Kurdish threat.

LONDON — There are mounting concerns in Turkey that the conflict in neighboring Syria has opened a Pandora ’s Box from which an autonomous and potentially hostile Kurdish entity will emerge.

With global attention focused on events in Aleppo, which rebels vow to turn into the “regime’s grave,” Turkey has sent troops, armored personnel carriers and missile batteries to the border with Syria after chunks of Syria fell into the hands of Kurdish militias.

“Turkish officials now fear that Syria could become a beachhead for Kurdish militants bent on wreaking havoc inside Turkey,” according to my colleagues Sebnem Arsu and Jeffrey Gettleman.

“Turkish officials have indicated that they will not hesitate to strike in Syria should Kurdish militants stage attacks against Turkey from there.” …

Turkish concerns are focused on the apparent ascendancy in the region of the Democratic Union Party (P.Y.D.), a Syrian Kurdish movement regarded as an offshoot of Turkey’s banned Kurdish Workers Party (P.K.K.).

A world without American hegemony, which the Left has so long dreamed of, is now within realistic possibility. A little more and we’re there. But it may not usher in the Age of Aquarius, as the Left had predicted. Rather it may be a much more brutal world than they imagine.

The Washington Post reports on rising naval tensions between China and Japan. “TOKYO — Japan voiced concern Tuesday about China’s growing assertiveness in regional waters at a time when it is becoming less clear who in Beijing is making decisions about the country’s military.”

As evidence of China’s alleged aggressiveness in western Pacific waters, particularly the East China Sea, the paper pointed to a “record number” of Chinese training exercises near Japanese islands, with at least one exercise involving an unmanned aerial vehicle. It also cited several instances in which Chinese helicopters flew close to Japanese destroyers. China has also increased its surveillance in the contested waters in recent years, the paper said, adding that the annual Chinese defense budget has more than doubled since 2007.

“China has been expanding and intensifying its activities in waters close to Japan,” the paper said. “These moves, together with the lack of transparency in its military and security affairs, are a matter of concern for the region and the international community.”

Nor are the problems confined to far-distant lands. “The U.S. Internet’s infrastructure needs to be redesigned to allow the NSA to know instantly when overseas hackers might be attacking public or private infrastructure and computer networks, the agency’s leader, General Keith Alexander, said today.” And why? Because he claims Russia and China are eating America’s lunch. Sydney Freeberg at AOL writes:

As the Senate reconvenes to debate the cybersecurity bill, President Obama himself has set the stakes in terms of preventing a future catastrophic attack. But some say the real and present danger is what’s happening under our noses right now, in an online theft of intellectual property that Cyber Command chief Gen. Keith Alexander called “the greatest transfer of wealth in history.”

“Don’t wait for something to go boom. It’s happening and it’s happening quietly right now,” said David Smith, director of the Potomac Institute’s Cyber Security Center, in an interview with AOL Defense. “I don’t think they’re nibbling around the edges; I think the rat’s eating your sandwich.”

Modern society is a extraordinarily vulnerable to disruptions in the information and power infrastructure. What has the Western public has not yet internalized is that all those Chevy Volts, Iphones and Starbucks Wi-fi connections can be rendered useless in an instant if the plug stops working. “India suffered a second day of a massive power breakdown that affected nearly half the country on Tuesday. India experienced its worst-ever power crisis, leaving more than 650 million people without electricity.”

India’s transport system screeched to a halt for a second day, as trains stopped and traffic signals stalled — stranding passengers and drivers …

The massive power failure for two straight days has turned the spotlight on India’s electricity deficit. Analysts have long said that the country’s power requirements have failed to keep pace with the demands of an expanding economy and a growing population. As a result, outages for several hours a day are routine across much of the country.

You would think that Western leaders would be interested in beefing up the Design Margin. Storing nuts, like prudent squirrels against a rainy day. Hell no. There’s nothing so desirable as more debt. Nothing that can’t be cured by spending more money. No benefit that can’t be reaped by disarming the populace. Nor is there any cost — how could there be? — to taking decades to bring new power sources online.

We’ve never needed them before, why should we need them now?

The world is apparently leaving the 70-year old Pax America for more troubled waters. But the principal danger is that it is led by a political elite that hates “unproven missile defense”, dreams of a world without nuclear weapons, hopes to rely on wind power for its energy needs and believes that the highest priority is to keep fast food companies whose owners don’t approve of gay marriage out of the restaurant business. That’s the bad news. What’s the good news?


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