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Author: TriSec    Date: 03/10/2015 10:13:07

Good Morning.

Today is our 264th day back in Iraq.

There have been no new American casualties in Iraq or Afghanistan.

So, we find this morning's Cost of War passing through:

$ 1, 609, 745, 500, 000 .00

While there have been no recent American casualties in Iraq, that doesn't mean that people aren't dying. 600 ordinary Iraqis joined the roll call of the dead in the month of February alone - and it shows no signs of slowing down.

BAGHDAD — The U.N. mission to Iraq said Sunday that violence claimed the lives of at least 1,100 Iraqis in February, including more than 600 civilians.

The U.N. Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) said in a statement that 611 civilians were among 1,103 people killed last month, with the rest hailing from the security forces. It said at least 2,280 people were wounded, including 1,353 civilians. January's death toll was at least 1,375.

The most violent city was the capital Baghdad, with 329 civilians killed and 875 wounded, it said.

The U.N. numbers do not include the third of the country held by the Islamic State extremist group.

U.N. envoy Nickolay Mladenov blamed the deaths on the extremist group, government forces and pro-government Shiite militias.

"Daily terrorist attacks perpetrated by ISIL continue to deliberately target all Iraqis," Mladenov said in the statement, using an acronym for the Islamic State group. "There are also concerning reports of a number of revenge killings by armed groups in areas recently liberated from ISIL," he added.

He called on Iraq's fractured leaders to reconcile, saying "an exclusively military solution to the problem of ISIL is impossible."

The statement came a day after series of attacks targeting public places and Shiite militia checkpoints in and around the capital killed at least 37 people. The deadliest, near the city of Samarra, saw two suicide car bombers attack checkpoints manned by Shiite militiamen, killing 16 Shite fighters and wounding 31.

But Iraq isn't alone in this regard. The United States has become quite the 'seagull manager' in war recently. Another place where we flew in, crapped all over the place, and then left is also experiencing an increase in civilian casualties. It's on the other side of the globe.

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Civilian casualties in Afghanistan sharply increased last year as government forces fought increasingly deadly battles with insurgents across the country, the United Nations reported Wednesday.

More than 3,600 noncombatants died and at least 6,849 were injured in 2014, the final year of the NATO-led coalition’s combat mission in Afghanistan, the U.N. said in its annual report.

Most of casualties were attributed to insurgent groups. In 2013, The UN documented a total of 8,615 civilian casualties with 2,959 civilian deaths and 5,656 injured.

Western leaders have declared an end to the combat mission in Afghanistan, but the casualty count in 2014 is the highest since the U.N. began counting in 2009, an indicator that the war is far from over.

"In communities across Afghanistan, increased ground fighting among parties to the conflict and more [improvised explosive device] attacks exacted a heavy toll on Afghan civilians," the head of the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, Nicholas Haysom, said in a statement. "Rising civilian deaths and injuries in 2014 attests to a failure to fulfil commitments to protect Afghan civilians from harm."

For the first time since 2009, more civilians were killed or injured in ground battles than from IEDs or because of other causes, the report found. Improvised bombs, which often indiscriminately target noncombatants, had traditionally been the top cause of civilian casualties.

But with Afghan forces now locked in significant fighting across the country, more families are being caught in the crossfire, the U.N. says.

As in past years, the U.N. said most casualties in 2014 were caused by anti-government forces such as the Taliban. Seventy-two percent of all casualties were attributed to insurgent groups, 12 percent to government forces, and 2 percent to international military troops. Ten percent occurred during ground engagements when the cause could not be determined, and the remaining casualties were caused by unexploded ordnance or crossborder shelling.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid rejected the U.N. report as government "propaganda" and said the findings are based on biased data.

"These figures and facts are not accurate because during the preparation of report they depend on information from the government and the Americans," he told Stars and Stripes by phone. "We reject this report. There have been many casualties during the night raids and bombardments by the foreigners and government troops."

The Afghan Ministry of Defense disputed the 12 percent figure as too high, but emphasized that "enemies of Afghanistan" were responsible for most of the casualties.

Of course, we're not really helping on either front. We don't even have congressional authorization to be in Iraq again, but that hasn't stopped us from readying for the next war. You can't fight without tools, and after spending untold millions to get our equipment out of Iraq....we're spending that money again to send it back.

Some 10,000 U.S. M-16 rifles and other military supplies worth about $17.9 million arrived in Iraq this week as U.S. troops pushed ahead with training and supplying Iraqi security forces battling Islamic State fighters, the Pentagon said on Tuesday.

The update on U.S. efforts to arm Iraqi troops followed an unusual, detailed briefing last week on preparations for an operation this spring to retake Iraq's second biggest city, Mosul, from Islamic State militants.

Pentagon spokesman Army Colonel Steve Warren said 10,000 red-dot optical sights and 100,000 ammunition magazines were also sent to Iraq, part of an expedited foreign military financing deal that was completed in 22 days, a quarter the normal time.

Thousands of Kevlar helmets and body armor plus 250 armored, mine resistant vehicles were delivered to Iraq in January. Warren said the United States sent 232 Hellfire missiles to Iraqi forces on Feb. 15, adding to the 1,570 sent last year. He said radios for the armored vehicles would arrive next month.

Last week an official at the U.S. military's Central Command told reporters that American and coalition troops would soon begin training Iraqi forces who are due to participate in the assault to retake Mosul. The official said an Iraqi and Kurdish force of 20,000 to 25,000 was needed for the offensive, which could take place as soon as April or May if troops were ready.

And finally...while we're sending things back to Iraq to ready for the next war, there's also been a suggestion to slow down getting troops home from Afghanistan. It never really ends, does it? Empires have been destroyed fighting in the mountains there since time immemorial...I still think it's only a matter of time before the United States is consumed, too.

Ashton Carter, the new U.S. secretary of Defense, indicated Saturday that he may advise President Obama to consider slowing the drawdown of American troops from Afghanistan due in part to a stronger relationship with the country’s new unity government.

Speaking at a joint news conference with Ashraf Ghani, the Afghan president, Carter said any reassessment would reflect the “reality on the ground.”

The new Pentagon chief, sworn in Tuesday, said a final decision on the withdrawal of the 10,000 remaining U.S. troops would be made by Obama and Ghani during the Afghan president’s visit to Washington next month.

Carter said the U.S. priority was to ensure that progress continues. “That’s why,” he said, there could be “possible changes to the timeline for our drawdown of U.S. troops.”

One major sign of confidence for Washington, Carter said, was Afghanistan’s government.

Based on an agreement brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry and the United Nations, the Afghan unity government sought to bring an end to a nearly yearlong election cycle, marred by allegations of widespread government-assisted fraud, by creating the new position of chief executive for Abdullah Abdullah, Ghani’s main election rival.

Carter characterized the new government as a “major change ... that just a few months ago we couldn't have planned on.”

Coming after years of icy relations with Hamid Karzai, the former Afghan president, Washington hopes that the Ghani administration will be more receptive to greater cooperation.

The unannounced two-day visit is Carter’s first trip abroad as Defense secretary. He was also expected to meet with U.S. troops and commanders, whose mission changed in January to focus on counter-terrorism operations and training Afghan soldiers and police.

Carter’s visit comes as the Ghani administration looks for ways to begin negotiations with Taliban insurgents. Recent news reports have suggested that the group is ready to restart talks with the government, possibly also involving the United States, in the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar.

Addressing the prospects of negotiations, Ghani would say only, “Grounds for peace have never been better in the last 36 years.… The direction is positive, but we can't make premature announcements.”

We sure keep going around in circles on both fronts, don't we?

47 comments (Latest Comment: 03/11/2015 00:44:33 by Raine)
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