The first three U.S. soldiers have paid the ultimate price in Afghanistan this year. As U.S. troops wrapped up the war in Iraq, Afghanistan still remains a dangerous place. The Administration is actively pursuing peace talks with the Taliban and Afghanistan’s Karzai government supports the talks. According to reports, the Taliban have agreed to talks and the establishment of an office in Qatar for the purpose of pursuing those talks.
With the end of the war in Iraq and the draw down in Afghanistan with a full withdrawal planned for 2014, the Obama Administration has released a new Defense Strategy. The strategy would see a cut in the defense budget by approximately $450 Billion and the reduction of ground forces from 570,000 to 490,000, of which 20,000 would be Marines. With China emerging as a military power, the Obama Administration wants to shift its emphasis to Asia, making greater use of air and naval power and using new technology.
Quoting the decimation of the Al Quaeda leadership, the withdrawal from Iraq and the drawdown that has already started in Afghanistan, the President said that the U.S. military will be leaner but agile, making use of new technology. The reductions will in no way reduce the capabilities of the United States to maintain its interests around the globe. He said that the plan announced today would provide a smart strategic set of priorities. He insisted that the budget cuts would be done responsibly.
The estimate is that approximately $450 Billion would be cut from the defense budget over ten years. Details are to be revealed in Obama’s budget in the coming weeks. Politisite
While naval and air power are great force multipliers, to seize and hold ground requires boots on the ground. The jury is still out on the total withdrawal from Iraq and how that will play out with neighboring Iran. Canada’s Prime Ministers Stephen Harper has called Iran the “biggest threat to world peace”. Will the US Military be stretched too thin with these projected cuts? Employing young men and women that have just come back from overseas tours is another problem. The method of the cut backs will become an important factor.
Syria continues to kill its own citizens, with the world impotent to do anything about it. Unlike Libya, a UN resolution to act is unattainable, and NATO is certainly not willing to enter into another conflict. 5,000 people are estimated to have been killed since the crackdowns began. Iran continues sabre rattling and threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz this week. With punishing sanctions against the regime and Europeans boycotting Iranian oil, the squeeze has been put onto the Iranian regime. How will they react? With a high stake game of chicken, one can only hope that the panic button isn’t hit, initiating another unwanted war.
Domestically campaign season is in full swing. This week’s Iowa caucuses saw Rick Santorum emerge as a front runner. It didn’t take long for the main stream media to challenge him on his religious beliefs, his views on same sex marriage and birth control. Mitt Romney barely edged Santorum (8 votes), but is still in a clear lead in New Hampshire with over 40% in his favor. How this weekend’s debates change the outcome in New Hampshire remains to be seen. Michelle Bachmann withdrew her candidacy after Iowa, Rick Perry was reassessing his campaign, but has announced that he would move on to South Carolina.
Yesterday the unemployment rate dropped to 8.5%, providing some good news for the Obama Administration. While this signals some good news and allows the Obama Administration to spin how
the President’s policies have been working, the fact is that the number of jobs created is only half of what is required for a good recovery. With the people who have quit looking for work no longer counted, the real unemployment rate is closer to 15%, with about 15 million Americans unemployed.
While the campaign season gets under way and especially with the President more interested in campaigning than governing, let us not forget that Americans are still in the line of fire in Afghanistan. Take a moment to think about them today. Lest We Forget.
Below are this week’s updated DoD casualty figures:
Op Enduring Freedom Total Deaths KIA Non Hostile WIA
Afghanistan Only 1747 1465 282 15183
Other Locations 104 12 92
DoD Civ Casualties 3 1 2
Worldwide Total 1854 1478 376 15183
Accumulated 2011 Casualties:
KIA Non Combat Deaths WIA
1 2 26