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Author: TriSec    Date: 01/06/2015 11:07:50

Good Morning.

With combat operations allegedly done in Afghanistan, you'll see some changes in our format. We're still in Iraq, but I'm going to stop counting the days for the moment.

We're also not going to post the daily casualty count unless there are new casualties on either front, as there has not been an American death in either area for quite some time. However, the stats are always available at Antiwar.com if you are so inclined.

However, since we're still paying for it, and Javi will be paying for it, and probably any such grandbabies I may have....we'll still see where today's Cost of War is going:

$ 1, 539, 820, 250, 000 .00

We'll head straight to Iraq to get things started this morning. While allegedly not "boots on the ground", Defense Secretary Hagel has just authorized combat pay for soldiers there fighting ISIS. So, are we there or not?

U.S. troops fighting Islamic militants in northern Iraq and possibly Syria will receive combat pay, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said.

The issue of special military compensation surfaced Thursday during a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee, chaired by Howard "Buck" McKeon, R- California, on the Obama administration’s strategy for combating the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, known as ISIL or simply the Islamic State.

Rep. Richard Nugent, R-Florida, asked Hagel whether American service members deploying to the country will receive combat pay. Hagel confirmed they would receive the additional compensation technically known as hostile fire and imminent danger pay.

"They will be compensated," the secretary said, noting that he intends to approve the special pay. His comments echoed those that Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby made in June.

A service member can receive an extra $7.50 per day, up to $225 per month, of hostile fire and imminent danger pay, in addition to basic pay. The rules were changed in 2012 to only allow the pay for days troops actually spend in hazardous areas.

Troops are eligible for the pay if subjected to hostile fire or explosion of hostile mines; killed, injured, or wounded by such hostile action; or threatened by physical harm or imminent danger on the basis of civil insurrection, civil war, terrorism, or wartime conditions.

The U.S. military since early August has launched thousands of airstrikes in northern Iraq against militants affiliated with the Islamic State, an al-Qaeda-inspired terrorist group that has overtaken parts of Iraq and Syria, after the group released video depicting the beheading of American journalists.

President Obama last week announced the deployment of 475 more ground troops to Iraq to advise Iraqi and Kurdish forces in Baghdad and Erbil, bringing the total number of U.S. service members in the country to about 1,600. He’s also considering expanding airstrikes to include targets in Syria.

Addressing troops on Wednesday at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida, the headquarters for U.S. Central Command, Obama vowed he wouldn’t support putting a large number of boots on the ground in Iraq.

"As your commander-in-chief, I will not commit you and the rest of our Armed Forces to fighting another ground war in Iraq," he said. "After a decade of massive ground deployments, it is more effective to use our unique capabilities in support of partners on the ground so they can secure their own countries’ futures. And that's the only solution that will succeed over the long term."

As part of a stop-gap funding measure to keep the government running through mid-December, the House of Representatives on Wednesday approved by a vote of 273-156 the president’s plan to arm and train "appropriately vetted" rebels to fight the Islamic State. The Senate was expected to vote on the measure later Thursday. The legislation would be limited to providing $500 million of existing funding to train and equip 5,000 members of the Free Syrian Army.

While Obama has repeatedly pledged to avoid using ground troops to fight the Islamic State, both Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey have suggested otherwise.

"We are at war and everything is on the table," Hagel said during Thursday’s hearing.

Regrettably, the Secretary may be right. It's just come out that 2014 was the deadliest year in Iraq since about 2007. And so the cycle of violence likely exacerbated by our presence continues on unabated.

Violence in Iraq killed more than 15,000 civilians and security personnel in 2014, government figures have shown, making it one of the deadliest years since the 2003 US-led invasion.

Figures compiled by the health, interior and defence ministries and published on Thursday put the death toll at 15,538, compared with 17,956 killed in 2007 during the height of Sunni-Shia sectarian killings.

UN Iraq envoy, Nickolay Mladenov, said: "Yet again, the Iraqi ordinary citizen continues to suffer from violence and terrorism.

"2014 has seen the highest number of causalities since the violence in 2006-2007. This is a very sad state of affairs.".

The death toll was more than double the 6,522 people killed in 2013.

Iraq Body Count, a Britain-based NGO that tracks violence in the country, gave an even higher toll, saying that 17,073 civilians were killed, which would make it the third deadliest year since 2003.

"For Iraqis, it has been the most difficult and painful of years because of the attack of the terrorist gangs," Prime Minister Haider al-Abbadi said in a New Year's speech, referring to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), who were said to be responsible for much of the bloodshed.

But as I alluded to in our opening this morning...we're off a war footing, aren't we? I'm not sure how this will play out, but the next few months are going to be interesting, as the President tangles with Congress and the warhawks. One must wonder, will we ever be out of Iraq and Afghanistan?

WASHINGTON — Taking America off a permanent war footing is proving harder than President Obama may have suggested.

U.S. troops are back in Iraq, the endgame in Afghanistan is requiring more troops — and perhaps more risks — than once expected and Obama is saddled with a worsening, high-stakes conflict in Syria.

Last spring, Obama described to newly minted Army officers at West Point how "the landscape has changed" after a decade of war. He cited then-dwindling conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. And he said Osama bin Laden, whose plotting from an al-Qaida sanctuary in Afghanistan gave rise to what became America's longest war, "is no more."

"You are the first class to graduate since 9/11 who may not be sent into combat in Iraq or Afghanistan," Obama declared to a burst of applause.

But once again the landscape has changed.

Once again the U.S. is engaged in combat in Iraq — not by soldiers on the ground but by pilots in the sky. And the Pentagon is putting "boots on the ground" to retrain and advise Iraqi soldiers how to fight a new menace: the Islamic State militants who have their roots in the Iraq insurgency that U.S. troops fought from 2003-2011.

Once again there are worsening crises demanding U.S. military intervention, including in Syria. Four months after his speech at the U.S. Military Academy, Obama authorized American pilots, joined by Arab allies, to begin bombing Islamic State targets in Syria with the aim of undermining the group's base and weakening its grip in Iraq.

And once again the U.S. is on a path that could expand or prolong its military role in Afghanistan. The U.S. combat role there ends Dec. 31, but Obama has authorized remaining U.S. troops to attack the Taliban if they pose a threat to U.S. military personnel who will continue training Afghan security forces for at least the next two years.

At his final news conference of 2014, Obama spoke just 18 words on Afghanistan, saying, "In less than two weeks, after more than 13 years, our combat mission in Afghanistan will be over."

As of Dec. 16, a total of 2,215 U.S. troops had died in Afghanistan and 19,945 had been wounded. In Iraq, 4,491 died and 32,244 wounded.

So, it will be interesting to see what 2015 brings. As we continue our war/notwar state of existence, you can rest assured that AAV will remain for the foreseeable future.

58 comments (Latest Comment: 01/06/2015 22:49:52 by Scoopster)
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