Japan-China: Four Chinese marine surveillance ships entered waters that Japan claims as territorial, near the Senkaku Islands.
Comment: This is the first time in three weeks that Chinese civilian patrol ships have violated Japanese territorial waters. Japanese Coast Guard authorities also charge that Chinese military aircraft have increased their operations in the area. The Chinese are just reminding the Japanese that the waters and ownership of the islands are contested.
Syria: Government military leaders announced they will suspend military operations to mark the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, declaring a ceasefire from Friday morning, 26 October, to Monday, 29 October. They said, however, that they reserve the right to respond to rebel attacks and bombings. They also said that Syrian government forces would respond to "terrorist groups trying to reinforce their positions by arming themselves and getting reinforcements" as well as to neighboring countries facilitating the smuggling of fighters across borders during that period."
Comment: A spokesman for the Free Syrian Army also said it agreed to a ceasefire, despite the pointlessness of its agreement. Many groups fight as Free Syrian Army elements, but they acknowledge no central control. There has been no decrease in the fighting during this Watch.
Despite the nattering international press, the Syrian government has gone farther than the rebels in agreeing to a truce. The Sunni rebels advanced into a Christian neighborhood of Aleppo as the ceasefire was being arranged.
Algeria: The Algerian government has given tacit approval for an African-led military intervention in Mali so long as there are no troops stationed on Algerian soil.
Comment: This means that Algeria will try to help by sealing its border with Mali once the intervention begins.
Mali: Update. News services reported today that the prospect of a war in northern Mali against fundamentalist Islamists and al-Qaida affiliates advanced significantly after European governments promised to back an international force to retake the region from Islamist groups, provided it is led by soldiers from African countries.
While preparations continue to retake the north, foreign jihadists reportedly are arriving in northern Mali to reinforce the Islamic militants.
Comment: This week's major development is that the Europeans promised to finance the operations. The problems of operating in northern Mali are enormous, requiring extensive resources just to sustain supplies of ammunition, fuel, food and water, not to omit coordination between forces from different states. The supply problems alone would tax a modern military force from a single nation.
A multi-national operation compounds the problems exponentially, especially if English-speaking and French-speaking forces try to cooperate. France and its NATO allies must provide the communications, maintenance, intelligence and supply backbone or this intervention will stand no chance of success. It looks like another Libya operation. No matter how the operations are presented to the public, the US will be doing much of the heavy lifting because no other nation in the world can. That is why the US has an Africa Command.
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