Monday, November 26, 2007

Serbia's window

Most, and I agree with them BTW, feel that cooler head will prevail in Kosovo - and no one is going to declare independence unilaterally and no one in Serbia is going to roll tanks - but I have been wrong before as have most who think they can either predict or know what is going to happen in the Balkans. Back during Wesley's Folly - there was one thing Serbia understood; blunt force. Mostly US, but with British and Dutch and a smattering of others (sound familiar) helping in - we pounded Serbia from high and far mostly due to Russia still being down hard and wheezing. Russia under Putin is flexing. The US is about war'd out. Due to most of Europe being less than helpful to the point of being negative help in Afghanistan - the American people will have a hard time being sold that we should help Europe clean up its own yard. Serbia though must still think about how hard they will be hit if they say "no" to Europe and North America (a nod to my Canadian friends) about Kosovo wanting to break away? America is fully employed right now and not in the mood to play in the Balkans. How about Germany? How are they doing in Afghanistan right now?
THEY are on the front line of the war on terror, but German pilots facing the Taliban are insisting they stop at tea time every day to comply with health and safety regulations.

The helicopter pilots, who provide medical back-up to Nato ground troops, set off for their base by mid-afternoon so they can be grounded by sundown.

Their refusal to fly in the dark is hampering Operation Desert Eagle, an allied offensive, which involves 500 Nato-led troops plus 1,000 Afghan troops and police.

Although Germany has sent 3,200 troops to Afghanistan, they operate under restrictive rules of engagement.

They spend much of their time in an enormous base, complete with beer halls and nightclubs, in Mazar-e-Sharif, a 90-minute flight from the fighting. They also have a base at Kunduz.

Germany, which has lost 25 soldiers in Afghanistan to suicide attacks and roadside bombs, commands the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in the north. But its men are not allowed to travel more than two hours from a “role two medical facility” - a hospital equipped for emergency surgery.

The restrictions have fuelled tensions among allied troops. Norwegian soldiers, who were fighting to stem a growing Taliban insurgency in this remote stretch of Afghanistan’s northwest frontier, were forced to desert their Afghan comrades midway through a firefight when German medical evacuation helicopters withdrew.

One Norwegian cavalry officer, who was engaged in a day-long fight with more than 40 Taliban near Jari Siya in Badghis, said: “It’s hopeless. We were attacking the bad guys, then [at] three or four o’clock, the helicopters are leaving.

“We had to go back to base. We should have had Norwegian helicopters. At least they can fly at night.”

Abandoned by their western allies, the 600 men from the Afghan army’s 209 Corps were forced to retreat until a convoy of American Humvees arrived the next day to reinforce them.
OK. Is that isolated? Hundreds of thousands are dead in Sudan, are the German, Italian and French powers (sic) doing any better there?
Yet, as the Associated Press tells us, the launch of the Eus peacekeeping could (yet again) be delayed, while the force commander Gen. Henri Bentegeat waits for firm commitments on the supply of vital helicopters.

All the man wants is a meagre dozen transport helicopters, which are absolutely essential to the mission as force multipliers to move peacekeepers quickly along the vast, sparsely populated borderlands west of Darfur.

Bentegeat says he is "very confident" nations would come up with around one dozen transport helicopters during the meetings in Brussels starting Monday but the very fact that the mission is supposed to start in December and he is still having to hand round the begging bowl tells you everything you need to know.
Not that there are many more to save now anyway. OK, how about the belligerent Brits?
So, which is it: a memorable or shameful moment for the Brits?

It’s neither. The withdrawal is better understood as a tightly-controlled PR stunt designed to make the British elite’s lack of political will for staying in Iraq look like something more meaningful. The movement of the last-remaining British troops from the centre of Basra to the outskirts of Basra doesn’t represent a break from Britain’s strategy in Iraq, in the form of a final victory or a crushing defeat. Rather, the withdrawal only makes the political reality – which is that in spirit the British pulled out of Iraq long ago – into a formal reality, too.

All the talk of victory or defeat overlooks the fact that the British army has not been fighting a war in Basra. British soldiers effectively withdrew from the streets of Basra two years ago and have spent much of the time since hunkered down in their barracks.
OK, they have their fill. How about Afghanistan?
The former United Nations High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina delivered his dire prediction after being proposed as a new "super envoy" role in Afghanistan.

Lord Ashdown said: "We have lost, I think, and success is now unlikely."
Sure America is out? Well, it has a significant part of the 15,000 NATO boots-on-the-ground, but.... If Kosovo UDIs (Unilaterally Declares Independence) and the Serbians say no; is NATO going to go kinetic on them? If each KFOR base has a nice polite Serbian Army Colonel drop by to say, "We are here to take our country back - the locals broke the agreement. Please stay here while we take care of our business. Thank you." What do you do? KFOR goes toe to toe with Serbian armor and infantry? The Capitol area is manned by Swedes, Finns, Czechs, and Irish. Yes, the Irish.

In the end; what a mess. Bosnia is bubbl'n as well. Let's be honest, do we want to fight here too? This is Europe's backyard, but do they have the ability and will to do it? What is Russia decides in the beginning of winter to cut back on energy supplies to Western Europe if they start bombing Serbia again? Ungh.

If they are smart, patient, and careful, the Serbians have a window to take back their Virginia if they want to take it. Could they get away with it? Ask those in Darfur. Ask the secularists in Basra. Ask the Danes taken by pirates off Somalia. Ask the terrorists released by Spain. Happy New Years early Serbia. Many may - but I don't underestimate you.

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