Central War Gaming Blog

Central War Gaming Blog


Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Central Grafsten Highlands

The countries of Ardea and Kitoy are essentially at peace. They have no existential threats, their armies are relatively small, and have sometimes been characterized as "ceremonial" by their detractors. Throughout most of the country, they are involved with border protection, maritime security, and spend most of their resources preventing the smuggling of drugs, weapons and interdicting human trafficking.

But there is also one longstanding, low-intensity conflict that occupies both armies. The border between the two countries is highly disputed, and in a very difficult piece of terrain. 

The Central Grafsten Highlands are a mountainous region running broadly north/south, and extended far to the south of both Ardea and Kitoy. Within most of the Ardea/Kitoy border, the region is geographically isolated between the Torbler and Krinen Rivers, with tall mountains occupying essentially the entire space in between.

Much water runs off these mountains, and causes the rivers to be both fairly fast and for their level to change. There are few bridges, and ferries generally cannot operate on them due to the current and slope. Within the Highlands, there are few major roads, and those are rarely paved. Few bridges and tunnels mean very circuitous routes are often required to get anywhere. Many of the more appealingly flat and fertile plains flood and are not easily traversable for several months in the spring and fall, so even there, access and maneuver is difficult. 

This traditionally limited the use of the region to a fairly small number of hunters, trappers, fishermen and herders. As national boundaries became solidified in the late 18th century, this was a natural boundary and the difficult terrain meant arbitrary lines on maps were never really surveyed. Even in law, the border is vague, and there are conflicting interpretations. 

A traditional subsistence hunter in a wetland in the marshes north-east of Lake Quamyre as photographed in 1880. — National Center for Indigenous Heritage (Kitoy)

There has never been a year-round road route over the mountains between the two countries, and rail never developed in the area, traditionally limiting contact between the two nations to the extreme coasts, and sea routes.

At the turn of the 19th century, indigenous clay miners discovered valuable salt deposits in the Highlands, and within a decade there were dozens of salt operations across the Highlands. Additional minerals were discovered, and foreign companies (especially British and French ones) invested in mineral exploitation, and transport. 

These operations often disregarded the national boundaries, and around 1830, the then Kingdom of Ardea was the first to use soldiers to gather taxes, repossess mines and forcibly eject foreigners from their territory.

With the money at stake, this led to legal actions — some of which are still ongoing — and continued use of troops, by both sides. By 1850 there were several skirmishes a year due to poor maps, limited roads, and the different interpretations of the border areas. 
Engraving of a Kitoy artillery battery of the 52nd Ciagan Guards Militia moving through a Highlands village in Canudos province, 1858. — National Highlands History Museum (Kitoy)

The conflict died down during and after the First World War, and the inter-war period saw little attention paid to the region as the value of the traditional commodities (lumber, clay, salt, turpentine, and so on) became too low to make it worth the effort. 

After the Second World War, American oil and gas companies used new technologies and new understandings of geology, and began to acquire mineral rights to the region. Estimate of the reserves vary widely, but it is now valuable again, and with the long-standing disputes there is little hope of any resolution soon. A handful of offshore wells are operating, but the two Navies and Coast Guards spend much time facing off over the disputed border in the ocean. 

Military operations have ebbed and flowed, but since the 1960s have been quite regular, and are largely concerned with obtaining generalized control over the area, and supporting international legal actions. No drilling or mining company will commit to operations with this unrest, and since the 1970s both Ardea and Kitoy have banned permanent settlements. There are numerous abandoned villages, and the roads and bridges built between 1930 and 1955 are generally in poor condition. 

Military operations are low intensity out of necessity. The poor terrain conditions mean only light vehicles and infantry can operate in the region. Helicopters would work, but neither nation has the overall military budget to have sufficient helicopters to change the tide of the effort. The conflict has also never met global political needs; there is no drug harvesting, no terrorists and no communists so foreign military assistance is essentially non-existent. 
An Ardean supply convoy during a halt in the fall of 2004. — Carus Weekly Journal

Within these constraints, military operations have a relatively free hand. The lack of population, or of current economic activity means the militaries of both Ardea and Kitoy have considered the Central Graften Highlands to be their exclusive domain, and have — at least within their countries — legal authority to carry out actions as though in a foreign country, with minimal oversight by civil courts, police or any local governments. 

The Kitoi took this to a horrifying extreme, and for almost a decade had fairly free reign to pursue enemy agents. By the late 1980s the size of these units and their scope of control had expanded to almost a third of the country. A campaign of imprisonment, often torture, and a few political assassinations on Kitoi soil — all in pursuit of a largely illusory terrorist organization — very nearly led to civil war. A new government elected in 1994 largely stopped military operations.

In 1997 a Truth and Reconciliation Commission began it's work, and resulted in changes to the Kitoi National Police, Justice Administration, and the Army. Entire units were disbanded, and only a carefully handled Truth and Reconciliation Commission prevented further unrest and a threat of jailing over a thousand soldiers and policemen. 

Ardea had similar issues, though with far fewer consequences to the overall nation. Their worst abuses were in the treatment of workers and villagers in the Highlands, and especially during the 1970s when a handful of narco-terrorists from nearby countries led the army to believe civil unrest was around the corner. In 2001 the government committed to paying over 10,000 surviving relatives (and their decedents) of the 1978 evacuation a small monthly stipend for the next century, but other cases continue to wind their way through the courts and Congress. 

An Ardean patrol sweeps a long-depopulated village in Narseh in 2010. Due to destruction of records, there is no good count of the number of forcibly abandoned villages across the Highlands. — Ardean Republican Army Press Service

In both countries, units operating in the Highlands are conventional Army units, are not permanently based their, and have significant civil oversight. While the arrangements vary in detail, in both Kitoy and Ardea, the regional governments have some say in operations, the police services carry out investigations for all shootings, and the Army cannot detain enemy soldiers or civilians found, but must hand them over to civil authorities within a short timeframe. 

These moderating influences to military action, the value of minerals in the land, almost two centuries of historical conflict, and the endless legal battles mean there is no end in sight for fighting in the Highlands. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

© 2015-2016 Central War Gaming | Contact Us | Facebook | Twitter