As promised, 'Ask a Vet' returns for the new year. While we're all festive and drunk on these shores, our brave men and women are still doing their duty and dying every day of the year. Today is our 1,749th day in Iraq.
We'll start this morning as we always do, with the latest casualty figures, courtesy of Antiwar.com:
Since war began (3/19/03): 3902
Since "Mission Accomplished" (5/1/03): 3763
Since Capture of Saddam (12/13/03): 3441
Since Handover (6/29/04): 3043
Since Election (1/31/05): 2465
Other Coalition Troops: 307
US Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 474
We find this morning's cost of war
standing at:$ 481, 982, 200, 000 .00
Turning to our friends at IAVA
, we find an alarming little story you might have seen in your own sunday paper this past weekend. No longer content to hunt Arabs on their own soil, it seems the Pentagon has turned the guns in.
An unlikely story caught my eye in the little magazine shoved into the comics in Sunday’s newspaper. As terrible as this reads, it’s from Sunday’s PARADE magazine:
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau has begun removal proceedings against him, and Sgt. Benkabbou faces deportation if he returns to American soil. At press time, he remains on combat duty in Afghanistan.
The article is talking about SGT Hicham Benkabbou, a paratrooper serving in Afghanistan with the Red Devils. Apparently he’s got some shady marriage in his background - not shady enough to keep him from serving, probably observing all kinds of classified SECRET material, and possibly sacrificing his life for this country. He’s impressed his commanders enough that they’re willing to give him a chance, as reported by the Guardian:
Several commanding officers have offered support to Benkabbou. Lieutenant Colonel Peterman said: “It is not an understatement to say that Sgt Benkabbou has been instrumental in sustaining the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment during this combat deployment to Afghanistan. He is a leader, a problem solver, and possesses the physical gifts of a US paratrooper.”
But once he’s done with the tour - after the Army’s finished with him - then ICE will pick him up and try to deport him. The Association of Patriotic Arab Americans in the Military has picked up his case but beyond the footshot of throwing away the career of a skilled paratrooper, what sort of loss is that to the info war and how much propaganda does that put back into the enemy’s quiver? Either the guy is a suspected plant and should be pulled out now or he’s a qualified Soldier and should be allowed to retain the citizenship he is so richly earning.
We'll next peer in briefly on Afghanistan....even here at "Ask a Vet" we often overlook this war, focused as we are on Iraq and the global consequences. But our soldiers fight and die there too...often in complete obscurity. 2007 was no better for them, either.
KABUL, Afghanistan - U.S. military deaths, suicide bombings and opium production hit record highs in 2007. Taliban militants killed more than 925 Afghan police, and large swaths of the country remain outside government control.
But U.S. officials here insist things are looking up: The Afghan army is assuming a larger combat role, and militants appear unlikely to mount a major spring offensive, as had been feared a year ago. Training for Afghan police is increasing.
Still, six years after the 2001 U.S.-led invasion, violence persists in much of southern Afghanistan where the government has little presence, and recent militant attacks in Pakistan highlight a long-term regional problem with al-Qaida and the Taliban.
Civilian deaths caused by U.S. and NATO forces in the first half of the year rattled the government, and more foreign fighters flowed into the country.
Taliban fighters avoided head-on battles with U.S., NATO and Afghan army forces in 2007, resorting instead to ambushes and suicide bombings, but militants attacked the weakest of Afghan forces to devastating effect.
More than 925 Afghan policemen died in Taliban ambushes in 2007, including 16 killed Saturday during an assault on a Helmand province checkpoint.
"The Taliban attack whom they perceive to be the most vulnerable, and in this case it's the police," said Lt. Col. Dave Johnson, a spokesman for the U.S. troops who train Afghan police and soldiers. "They don't travel in large formations like the army does. That puts them in an area of vulnerability."
Afghanistan in 2007 saw record violence that killed more than 6,500 people, including 110 U.S. troops — the highest level ever in Afghanistan — and almost 4,500 militants, according to an Associated Press count. Britain lost 41 soldiers, while Canada lost 30. Other nations lost a total of 40.
We'll close this morning with a new item. It's 2008, and today is the first day of Bush's last year in office. (How sweet is that?)
We'll have a new president in 385 days.