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Afghanistan: Comment: The NATO leaders agreed to transfer combat operations to the Afghan Army by mid-2013. Only one news commentator recognized this as coded language for accelerating the end of the NATO military commitment to Afghanistan, 18 months early.

An unidentified US general hastened to put the best face on the early withdrawal decision by insisting to the press that US forces would continue to fight the Taliban until the end of 2014. However, that is a decision for the Commander-in-Chief and the President overruled him. This fight ends a year from now.

Another news service reported an American official as taking bets on how long the Karzai regime would last after US combat forces left in 2014. Wrong question.

The relevant question is how long can the Karzai regime survive after all combat operations are turned over to Afghan forces? If the Afghans won't fight, there will not be enough NATO forces to hold Kabul for long.

As reported in other editions of NightWatch, the Soviet-backed client, Najibullah, survived for three years after Soviet combat forces withdrew. That is the measure of merit.

The Soviets equipped their Afghan clients with the same equipment Soviet forces used. They did not draw down stockpiles of obsolescent equipment to outfit their Afghan allies. Two reports this weekend relate how deeply the Afghans resent being treated as second-class allies, equipped without outdated gear US forces do not use. If these accounts are accurate, as they appear, they explain the increased fratricide among so-called allies.

The next year will be unpleasant and dangerous for any NATO soldiers in Afghanistan. The good news is nobody wants to be the last man to die in this conflict.

Syria: Interior Minister Major General M. Ibrahim Shaar appeared on state-run television on the 20th to refute Free Syrian Army claims that he and five other top military and security officials had been assassinated. The FSA claim was carried by al Jazeera among other news services.

Some of the other officials who supposedly are dead are Assistant Vice President General Hassan Turkmani, Defense Minister Dawood Rajha, and the President's brother in law and intelligence chief Asif Shawkat. All of these men are alive.

Comment: One of the fundamental rules of information operations is to not make claims that can be audited and evaluated independently. The Syrian opposition's web postings are not credible and the people making the postings are rank amateurs.

End of NightWatch for 21May.

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