Saturday, 26 November 2011

Pakistan and Iraq Headline Today's News with More than 40 Killed

As Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, battle in stores during Black Friday and U.S. troops are completing their withdrawal from Iraq, there is disturbing news of more killings in both Iraq and Pakistan.  At least 15 people have been killed and more than 20 have been wounded in a Saturday bombings in the Abu Ghraib area of Iraq.  Pakistan has accused NATO of a helicopter attack on two Army check points in the north west, killing at least 25 soldiers.

Bomb attacks in central Iraq killed at least 15 people and wounded more than 20 on Saturday, security officials and a doctor said.
The latest bombings came two days after triple blasts killed 19 people in the southern port city of Basra.
In the first attack, bombs on each side of the main road from Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad, to Fallujah hit a truck carrying construction workers, First Lieutenant Omar Zawbai of the Abu Ghraib police told AFP.
Dr Omar Delli of Fallujah Hospital said "the hospital received seven bodies and seven wounded," two of whom later died.
An interior ministry official put the casualty toll at eight dead and 13 wounded from the Abu Ghraib attack.  AFP
The attacks come amidst the withdrawal of American troops.  Approximately 18,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq, mostly responsible for packing and moving American equipment back to the U.S. or relocating it to Afghanistan.  All troops are expected to be withdrawn by the end of the year.

The recent escalated violence in Iraq calls into question the capability of the Iraqi government to maintain control after U.S. troops have departed.  Brigadier General Bradley A. Becker, who is responsible for oversight, support and sustainment for U.S. forces participating in Operation New Dawn, believes that Iraqi Security Forces are capable to face the challenge after U.S. troops leave.  The proof will be in the pudding.  

Although Iraq, unlike Afghanistan, had a trained military prior to the U.S. invasion, there appears to be a lot of discontent and disagreement among the various ethnic factions.  The challenge for Iraq will be to unify the various factions and to keep Iran out of its business.  With the international community putting pressure on Iran, it will most likely try to assert its influence on Iraq.  The political situation is also unclear in neigbouring Syria.   The whole region is a delicate balancing act.  

Pakistan is another region of major concern.  Again, on Saturday, a NATO helicopter allegedly pushed across the border.  This time it allegedly attacked Pakistani Army Checkpoint.  Sadly this will not improve relations with the Pakistani government.  
Pakistan on Saturday accused NATO helicopters of firing on two army checkpoints in the northwest and killing 25 soldiers, then retaliated by closing a key border crossing used by the coalition to supply its troops in neighboring Afghanistan.
The incident Friday night was a major blow to already strained relations between Islamabad and U.S.-led forces fighting in Afghanistan. It will add to perceptions in Pakistan that the American presence in the region is malevolent, and to resentment toward the weak government in Islamabad for co-operating with Washington.
It comes a little over a year after a similar but less deadly incident, in which U.S. helicopters accidentally killed two Pakistani soldiers near the Afghan border, whom the pilots mistook for insurgents. Pakistan responded by closing the Torkham border crossing to NATO supplies — as it did Saturday — for 10 days until the U.S. apologized. Washington Post
 Pakistan is the key to success in Afghanistan, but these incidents do not help the situation.  The Pakistani military blamed NATO for attacking the Mohmand tribal area and said that NATO "carried out unprovoked and indiscriminate firing."

NATO said that it was aware of the reports and that it would comment after more information on the incident had been gathered.  It said that air support had been called for the region and that it is highly likely that NATO is responsible for the killings.

spokesman tells BBC its forces are "highly likely" to be behind attack which killed 24 soldiers

The situation in the complete region is still very volatile.  Bombings continue in Iraq and NATO continues to attack across the Afghan/Pakistani border.  These recent incidents give food for thought.  Is the withdrawal from Iraq and the draw down in Afghanistan political expediency or based on the conditions on the ground?

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