As the security for Afghanistan transfers to the control of Afghan Security Forces, another 12 U.S. soldiers have given their life in the war torn country. Six soldiers were killed in action (KIA), six died of other causes, while an additional 41 joined the wounded warriors.
NATO ministers met this week to discuss the way ahead in Afghanistan, ahead of a summit to be held in Chicago in May. The U.S. and Afghanistan announced that a "Strategic Partnership Treaty" had been finalized, ready for signature by President Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The treaty was to deal with supporting and funding approximately 352,000 Afghan soldiers and policeman by 2014. Afghan Forces are expected to level at 228,500.
Total cost of the package is expected to be about $4.2 Billion, of which the U.S. has committed to paying $4.2 Billion. The treaty also addresses residual NATO/US troop strength post 2014 and the issue of night raids by special forces has also been addressed. The U.S. has apparently made a concession on that issue and all night raids will now be planned and led by Afghan Security Forces.
Australia has announced that it will withdraw its troops by the end of this year, one year ahead of schedule, while the UK is going ahead with a withdrawal of 500 troops this year. Apparently the Pentagon/White House have requested that Australia and Canada leave a small contingent of troops, probably Special Forces beyond 2014 to assist Afghans with training and in the capture of insurgents. Of course there is still the issue of insurgents in Pakistan.
NATO leaders are making it clear that they are not prepared to leave Afghanistan to its own vices and that they will assist the Afghan government in any way they can to assure success and end the war in Afghanistan.
In the US the election general election campaign is in full swing with both sides spouting rhetoric to demonize the other. Americans can expect one of the dirtiest campaigns, full of Super PAC ads that will be beyond belief. As Mitt Romney has all but wrapped up the GOP nomination, the White House and the Obama campaign have turned their focus on Romney and of course the Romney campaign on the incumbent President. With the campaigns in full swing now, the winners are the media that air those ads, which cost obscene amounts. One would think with an economy still struggling, millions of unemployed and on food stamps or other assistance, this money could be used better elsewhere.
The global economy at best is shaky. The Dutch government collapsed over austerity measures. French President Nicolas Sarkozy is facing a run-off election and Germany's Angela Merkel is under pressure to quit subsidizing the rest of Europe.
Needless to say there is a lot of pressure on governments to stop spending money on wars and to get out of Afghanistan. Meanwhile troops are still putting their life on the line daily in Afghanistan. Just yesterday the 410th British soldier died in Helmand Province. Take a moment this week and think about those sacrificing their life. Lest We Forget.
Below are this week’s updated DoD casualty figures:
Op Enduring Freedom Total Deaths KIA Non Hostile WIA
Afghanistan Only 1828 1516 312 15713
Other Locations 112 12 100
DoD Civ Casualties 3 1 2
Worldwide Total 1943 1529 414 15713
Accumulated 2012 Casualties:
KIA Non Combat Deaths WIA
62 43 535
List of Casualties at Casualties.org