As the war winds down in Afghanistan, so does the number of NATO casualties. This week one US soldier was killed in action (KIA) and 14 were injured. A Polish NATO soldier was also killed. The US soldier was killed by an improvised explosive device.
Winter has traditionally been a time for the insurgents to take stock, recruit, train and replenish their assets, which is part of the reason why casualty numbers have slowed. One more reason has been the transition of responsibility for security to Afghan forces. While the NATO effort in Afghanistan may be drawn down, the world still continues to be a dangerous place, with the French operation in Mali cranking up and the recent hostage taking and subsequent Algerian forces raid as a primary example. While President Obama boasts of having decimated Al Qaida, they have merely re-located to fight another day.
This has been a particularly busy week in Washington, D.C., as President Obama starts his second term, he unveiled his agenda for his second term, which encompasses the environment, gun control, pay equality and gay rights issues. While the fiscal cliff was a heated issue at the end of 2012 and early on in the new year, there was little mention in the president's speech that addressed the economy or an effort to live within our means.
Hillary Clinton was front and centre, as she testified to both Senate and House committees. Unfortunately little was revealed and the Secretary of State was skillful in dodging a number of questions. Democratic lawmakers used the occasion for a Hillary love fest, while Republicans for the most part tried to score political points. As a result the American people know little more of what happened on that fateful day and perhaps never will.
Whether or not the US consulate attack in Benghazi was a cover up during a politically charged election campaign, may never be known. There are now allegations that the cover up is more about a gun running scheme and that Ambassador Stephens may have been a key figure.
"According to jihad watch, 'Ambassador Stevens may have indeed been the point man in yet another U.S.-led gun running scheme. From what can be pieced together thus far, the Muslim Brotherhood and its proxy, Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) leader Abdulhakim Belhadj, were advising the U.S. on which rebel-factions in Libya and later, in Syria, should receive our arms. Those rebel factions, by the way, comprise members of al Qaeda, which stands to reason given that bin Laden’s alma matter is in fact Muslim Brotherhood progeny.' TEK Journalism"
On Thursday, outgoing Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta signed an order removing all obstacles for women to be employed in combat positions. While the qualifications to enter these jobs will not be lowered Panetta said that by broadening the role of women the military will be strengthened. As was the case with "Don't Ask Don't tell" the US is "Johnny come lately" in implementing this policy. NATO allies have long opened all military classifications to women, with Canada opening its doors as early as the mid 80s.
As President Obama starts on his second term, with a firm agenda, Afghanistan will be drawn down and the responsibility passed to Afghan forces for defending their own country. Presently, due to winter there is a lull in fighting activity. So far in January four US soldiers have been killed in action while 48 were wounded. One casualty is too many in a war that has stretched over 11 years. Lest We Forget.
Roll of casualties
Below are this week’s updated DOD casualty figures:
Op Enduring Freedom Total Deaths KIA Non Hostile WIA
DOD Civ Casualties--------------3-------- ----1--------2
Worldwide Total-------------2168-------- 1718------450----18215
Accumulated 2012 Casualties:
KIA Non Combat Deaths WIA