News from the war in Afghanistan, at least as far as casualties are concerned, are encouraging. U.S. Forces had one non-combat death this week and 48 soldiers were wounded, the lowest casualty rate all year. Nonetheless one death is still too many. A total of 412 U.S. soldiers have died in Afghanistan or in support of Operation of Enduring Freedom this year. Total coalition Forces killed in Afghanistan this year are 556.
The U.S. Administration made it official this week that there have been negotiations with the Taliban and Vice President Joe Biden said, “The Taliban, per se, are not our enemy.” If they are not, who is killing our troops?
It’s been one week since the war in Iraq ended officially. The political situation is quite volatile and Iraqi’s Shia Prime Minister Maliki has issued an arrest warrant for the countries Sunni Vice President. He has also called for a no confidence motion against the Sunni Deputy Prime Minister. Ironically these actions were taken by Maliki almost immediately after a joint press conference with President Obama at the White House. So much for a stable and secure Iraqi democracy.
A week ago North Korea’s “Dear Leader” Kim Jong Il died and the country is now officially in morning until December 27th. Kim Jong Un, his third son,
has been chosen as the successor. There could be an internal power struggle within North Korea. US Intelligence was caught off guard and only knew of Kim Jong Il’s death two days after the fact. South Korea’s military has been placed on alert.
Assad’s Syria is still a major concern for the United States and the UN. The Arab League has managed to get and observer team into Syria and shortly after the team arrived bomb blast went off in various Damascus neighborhoods, killing dozens of people and wounding in excess of 100.
Iran continues to be a dangerous place and the Iranian navy has started a ten day exercise in the Strait of Hormuz. Most of the globe’s oil passes through that strait. It is not known if Iran will attempt to close the Strait.
TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iran began 10 days of naval exercises in the Strait of Hormuz on Saturday, raising concern about a possible closure of the world’s most strategic oil transit channel in the event of any outbreak of military conflict between Tehran and the West.
The military drill, dubbed “Velayat-e 90,” comes as the tension between the West and Iran is escalating over the Islamic state’s nuclear programme.
Some analysts and diplomats believe the Islamic Republic could try to block the strait in the event of any war with the West over suspicions it is seeking atom bombs. Iran’s arch-foes Israel and the United States have not ruled out military action if diplomacy and sanctions fail to rein in Iran’s nuclear work.
Iran says it wants nuclear energy only for peaceful ends. REUTERS
In domestic U.S. politics there was high drama in Washington, D.C. Class warfare was at its best, as President Obama portrayed himself as the champion of the middle class, demonizing the Republicans on the payroll tax cut extension. Although the Republican House had passed a one year extension, the Senate modified the bill to two months, passed it with a bipartisan vote of 89-10 and left town on their Christmas vacation.
House Republicans bulked at the two months extension and insisted they wanted a full year. Both the President and Harry Reid insisted that the two months extension was the best anyone could get right now. Eventually Speaker Boehner had to back off his demands and got a concession from Democrats and the President that conference members would be appointed on the Democrat side. The bill is to go to conference to get a one year extension. Subsequently the House passed the bill by unanimous consent. Of course, the President took credit.
As Christmas is just around the corner, the world continues to be a dangerous place. While we all want “Peace on Earth”, this is not yet within reach. There is political upheaval in Russia, Syria, Korea, Iraq, Iran, the Middle East, etc. No one can see the future and what it will bring in 2012. The economy is squeezing people world wide and this in itself causes discontent.
As you celebrate Christmas an New Years take a moment and think of our troops and their loved ones. Lest we forget.
Below are this week’s updated DoD casualty figures:
Op Enduring Freedom Total Deaths KIA Non Hostile WIA
Afghanistan Only 1741 1460 281 15138
Other Locations 103 12 91
DoD Civ Casualties 3 1 2
Worldwide Total 1847 1473 374 15138
Accumulated 2011 Casualties:
KIA Non Combat Deaths WIA
361 93 5052