Today is our 2,540th day in Iraq and our 3,068th day in Afghanistan.
We'll start this morning as we always do, with the latest casualty figures from Iraq and Afghanistan, courtesy of Antiwar.com:
Since war began (3/19/03): 4379
Since "Mission Accomplished" (5/1/03): 4240
Since Capture of Saddam (12/13/03): 3916
Since Handover (6/29/04): 3520
Since Obama Inauguration (1/20/09): 151
Other Coalition Troops - Iraq: 318
US Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 1,008
Other Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 664
Contractor Employee Deaths - Iraq: 1,457
Journalists - Iraq: 338
Academics Killed - Iraq: 437
We find this morning's cost of war
passing through:$966, 593, 150, 000 .00
Here's an interesting tidbit from the just-completed Vancouver games, thanks to our friends at IAVA. While I'm sure many of you watched the gold medal hockey game on Sunday afternoon, there was just as significant event that took place Saturday evening.
Important to the uber-geeky, narrow-focus sliding community, that is. Not to put too fine a point on it, the USA four-man bobsleigh suffered through a medal drough not unlike the Red Sox and the world series...although their count was 62 years instead of 86.
That all ended as USA-1 took the gold Saturday. But did you know that all four US sleds were driven by veterans?
Steven Holcomb, a former Utah Army National Guardsman from 1999 until 2006, piloted the U.S. to its first gold medal in the four-man bobsled since 1948. Holcomb served as a combat engineer in the 1457th Engineering Battalion before being honorably discharged. Each of this year’s three U.S. entrants in the four-man bobsled were piloted by former or current guardsmen.
And in another bit of good news, it seems that one of the things we wanted is actually starting to happen. Our soldiers are still deploying multiple times and are spending up to a year or more overseas at a clip....but they're staying home longer
in between deployments now, too.
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii -- Soldiers are getting to spend more time at home between combat deployments as the U.S. military draws down in Iraq and the Army grows in size, the service's chief of staff said Friday.
Gen. George Casey told reporters during a visit to Hawaii's largest Army post that soldiers are able to recover better from their deployments when they spend more time at home in between missions in war zones.
It allows them to spend time with their families and has the added benefit of giving soldiers time to train for a variety of missions - not just for the counterinsurgency demands of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Soldiers are currently getting an average of 14 to 15 months at home between deployments, and more are getting 17 to 18 months.
That's more than the year that had been the norm until recently. It's still short of the Army's two-year goal, but an improvement over 12 months, Casey said.
"With the drawdown in Iraq and the growth that we've completed, we're starting to see it stretch out and that's only going to help us," Casey said.
The Army began adding 65,000 troops to its ranks several years ago to cope with the increased demands of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The additional soldiers are allowing the Army to give its forces more time at home between rotations. So is the U.S. decision to reduce its presence in Iraq and to leave entirely by December 2011.
Casey said soldiers are getting more time at home even as the military sends more troops to Afghanistan to fight the Taliban.
A few years ago Casey had said the deployment demands were putting the Army "out of balance." Now he says the service was closer to getting back to normal.
"We're still not where we need to be but we have made great progress over the last two and a half, three years putting ourselves in a position of balance," Casey said.
Lastly this morning...I'll be the first to raise my hand when asked if I though the new Afghanistan "surge" was a bad idea. But that shows you how much I know. It seems to be working.
KABUL — Recent military successes in killing and capturing top Taliban leaders have rattled the jihadist movement, deprived it of its most experienced men and raised doubts among recruits, the top allied leader in Afghanistan said Thursday.
"You see a weakening of the organization's confidence," U.S. Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal told USA TODAY.
His comments come on the day that a provincial government was officially installed in the Taliban stronghold of Marjah, where U.S. Marines and Afghan soldiers are still clearing out enemy fighters after 12 days of fighting.
McChrystal based his assessment on information from detainees and other intelligence sources.
He said it was too early to suggest that the recent success in targeting militant leaders is "decisive." It hasn't led to a reduction in violence or fighters in Afghanistan, he said at his headquarters here.
"We don't see it collapsing," McChrystal said of the Taliban. "But there is a cumulative effect to the number of leaders that you take off."
Early today, suicide bombers attacked in the heart of Kabul, triggering a series of explosions and gunbattles that killed at least 10 people near a hotel used by foreigners, Gen. Ahman Zia Yaftali, an Afghan Defense Ministry official, told the Associated Press. The Taliban claimed responsibility. Five suicide bombers conducted the deadly attacks on two buildings, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told the AP.
U.S. and Pakistani officials this month captured Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the No. 2 Taliban leader. That success was followed by a series of raids in Afghanistan that netted senior Taliban figures.
In the latest notch, Pakistani Taliban commander Mohammed Qari Zafar, wanted in the 2006 bombing of the U.S. Consulate in Karachi, was killed in a suspected CIA missile strike, two Pakistani intelligence officials told the Associated Press. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.
Intelligence gleaned from Baradar led to the arrests of two Taliban shadow governors — Mullah Abdul Salam of Kunduz province and Mullah Mohammad of Baghlan — and the arrest of Akhunzada Popalzai, also known as Mohammad Younis, a onetime Taliban shadow governor in Zabul province.
Given its decentralized structure, the Taliban quickly announces replacements for missing leaders. McChrystal acknowledged this but said the takedowns have hurt the organization's experience, confidence and expertise. It also hurts the morale of fighters, such as those facing allied and Afghan forces in Marjah, he said. Most of the Taliban leaders in Marjah left before the offensive.
"It causes doubts in his mind of, 'What am I doing?' " McChrystal said of other fighters. "That doesn't mean he'll stop what he's doing, but it injects doubt."
McChrystal said that when leaders are taken out, "one of the things you want ... is the survivors ... to hear footsteps. You want them to think it is always one day before they're the next leader that gets picked up."
McChrystal said coalition forces are almost finished clearing Islamic jihadists from Marjah and will soon establish security there. "It's clear to me it will take days more, but we will do it," he said.
While Guantanamo is still open, and we're still in Iraq and Afghanistan and will be for quite some time...maybe there are a few encouraging signs on the horizon.
Like the counter says....we've been at this a cumulative 5,608 days. Over a year later, is it too much of a stretch for us to admit that this wasn't going to be fixed in 406 days...as much as we wanted it to be?