India-Russia-Afghanistan: India, Russia and Afghanistan quietly have created a triangular arrangement for providing arms aid to Afghanistan after NATO withdraws. None of the countries have made an official announcement. Only a small number of news services, including The Moscow Times and Pakistani newspapers, have published articles about it.
The arrangement was finalized in February when an India team visited Moscow, but it had been under discussion during the past year. It was one of the discussion items when President Karzai visited India last December.
Under the agreement, smaller arms such as light artillery and mortars will be provided by Russia and moved to Afghanistan from the north, while India paid Russia for the equipment. An inventory of Russian-made equipment in Afghanistan has been completed. Afghanistan has presented India with a list of requirements and Russia reportedly has made one or more initial shipments.
An Indian Ministry of External Affairs officer said, "We can't commit troops on the ground; we can't give them the military equipment that they have been asking us for, for all sorts of reasons including the lack of surplus stocks….Involving a third party is the next best option."
Comment: The leaders of the three countries have exercised care to minimize negative reaction from Pakistani leaders. India could meet most of Afghanistan's needs from its own production lines, but does not want Indian-made military equipment and ammunition showing up in Taliban hands, especially Pakistani Taliban hands.
While the initial shipments will involve smaller weapons, future deliveries could include heavier equipment, including artillery, tanks and combat helicopters. President Karzai has requested heavy equipment from the Indians, but thus far they have not agreed to provide it. If or when India does supply heavy military equipment, India could ship equipment by sea to the Iranian port of Chabahar and then deliver it to Afghanistan by using the road India built from Chabahar to the west Afghanistan town of Delaram, which is located on the Afghan Ring Road.
This arrangement puts a different perspective on the aftermath of the NATO withdrawal. President Karzai has cultivated other allies who live in the region and who have helped in the past. Iran, Russia and India cooperated in supporting the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance before 2001. The new agreement involves the same players, but in a more formal and focused arrangement.
The significance is that all of Afghanistan's anti-Taliban neighbors have renewed and strengthened their commitments to a stable Afghanistan that is not under Pakistani influence. Pakistan will not be able to use Afghanistan for strategic depth and will need to worry about a hostile Afghanistan allied with India in any future confrontation, in other words, a possible two-front war.
Iraq: Election update. Iraqis voted today, but there are no preliminary results. More than 9,000 candidates from numerous parties competed for 328 seats in parliament.
Saudi Arabia: On 29 April, Saudi Arabian forces staged a large military parade in Riyadh to close out exercise Sayf Abdallah (Sword of Abdallah). The three-day exercise was the largest the Saudis ever conducted and took place on multiple borders.
The parade featured troops, combat vehicles, tanks, aircraft, and anti-aircraft systems of the Saudi Army plus two Chinese Dong Feng-3 medium range ballistic missiles on transporters. The parade was the first showing of the missiles, which Saudi Arabia reportedly acquired from China in 1987.
Pakistani Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif attended the parade at the invitation of Saudi Crown Prince Salman, who is also the Minister of Defense. Others present included the King of Bahrain, King Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifa; UAE's Crown Prince Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum; Jordan's Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour and other military commanders from Gulf Cooperation Council countries.
Comment: During Operation Desert Storm, the Saudi missiles reportedly were aimed at Iraq. Now most analysts believe they are targeted against Iran. Iran is the obvious intended audience for the Saudi military display.
The Saudi leaders have made a point that they no longer intend to rely on the US for defense of the Kingdom and its allies. The large exercise, the presence of the Pakistani Chief of Army Staff and other leaders and the ballistic missiles reinforce that point.
A prominent Saudi prince recently urged other Arab Gulf nations to develop advanced atomic capabilities in order to create a "balance of forces" against Iran, according to news services.
Ukraine: Pro-Russian separatists took control of state buildings in Horlivka, a city of almost 300,000 people just north of Donetsk. Counting the recapture of buildings in Mariupol, pro-Russia activists have control of key public buildings in 15 cities and towns in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine.
Turchynov's admission. Yesterday the acting president of the Kyiv regime said that police and security forces were either "helpless" to prevent the unrest or were actively colluding with the "separatist rebels."
President Oleksandr Turchynov said the Ukrainian government's goal now was to prevent the agitation from spreading to other territories, and he called for the creation of special regional police forces so that a presidential election could take place on May 25 as scheduled."
Comment: Turchynov's statement amounts to an admission of defeat in that eastern Ukraine is no longer under the control of the Kyiv regime. He also admitted that pro-Russia activism extends from Kharkiv in the north to Odessa in the south. That area covers most of Ukraine east of the Dniepr River and southern Ukraine to Transnistria.
One implication of the statement is that it means Ukrainian and Russian armies will not fight. Russia has obtained dominance with lots of pressure, but no major clashes. Russia, thus, would seem to have no need to intervene to annex eastern Ukraine. However, Russian soldiers and security personnel might be needed to help arrange some form of political order
End of NightWatch
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