As the war in Iraq is coming to an end, another six soldiers were killed in action (KIA) in Afghanistan and 50 soldiers were wounded. A seventh soldier lost his life in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The cost in Afghanistan in terms of U.S. and Afghan lives is still extremely high. 361 U.S. soldiers have paid the ultimate price this year, while over 5,000 were wounded with countless young Americans have been scarred with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for life.
This week President Obama and the First Lady traveled to Fort Bragg, North Carolina to mark the end of the war in Libya. The cost for liberating Iraq was high. The war took 4487 lives (4421 under Operation Iraqi Freedom and another 66 under Operation New Dawn). POTUS and FLOTUS paid tribute to the troops and said that American soldiers could hold their heads up high. Once the remainder of U.S. troops cross the border into Kuwait, some 16,000 U.S. security personnel remain in Iraq to protect the U.S. embassy.
The situation in Iraq continues to be volatile, as could be seen by protests in Fallujah to mark the departure of U.S. troops. The Iraqi government has its hands full. There is the concern of Iran’s influence in an independent Iraq. Iran continues to be a thorn in the eye of the U.S. The downing of the RQ 170 spy drone has heated up the rhetoric between the U.S. and Iran. The drone, according to Iran, was downed 150 miles inside the territory of Iran. The U.S. has requested Iran to return the drone. Naturally Iran refuses to return it. Critics contend that the Obama Administration should have destroyed the drone, using covert operations.
The Middle East continues to be volatile. Egypt’s Arab Spring has turned into an Arab Fall and winter and the situation is far from settled there. Syria’s death toll has climbed to 5,000+, according to the UN. While a similar situation in Libya resulted in NATO intervention, caution is being applied when it comes to Syria. Libya was a big supplier of oil and Gaddafi did not have very many allies in the Arab world. Syria is closely aligned with Iran and of course there is the security of Israel.
This past week also saw protests in the streets of Moscow, the largest demonstration since the demise of the Soviet Union. The protestors claim that the recent elections for the Duma were fraud ridden, involving ballot stuffing. The protests also called for a Russia without Putin. Russia’s President Dimitry Medvedev, in a facebook message, ordered an investigation into the elections.
Meanwhile there was drama again in Congress. It wasn’t until yesterday that Congress agreed on a spending bill to continue funding government operations past year’s end. This morning Congress will be voting on the Payroll Tax Cut Extension, which will include a provision for the President to make a decision on the XL Keystone Pipeline or declare the project is not in the interest of the United States.
While the war in Iraq draws to an end, 90,000 U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan. The dispute with Pakistan makes NATO operations more difficult, but a full transition to Afghan Security Forces is still planned by 2014. As you get ready for the Christmas holiday, take a moment and remember those that are half way around the world in service for their country and their families. Lest we forget.
Below are this week’s updated DoD casualty figures:
Op Enduring Freedom Total Deaths KIA Non Hostile WIA
Afghanistan Only 1740 1460 280 15090
Other Locations 103 12 91
DoD Civ Casualties 3 1 2
Worldwide Total 1846 1473 373 15090
Accumulated 2011 Casualties:
KIA Non Combat Deaths WIA
361 92 5004