Search This Blog

Sunday, November 16

Meanwhile, Back at the Wars ...

Sure, I know it's fun watching the right wing turn in upon itself, killing off its weaker members and generally carrying on like hapless victims, but there are Larger Concerns facing us.

Let's start with Iraq.

The Iraqi Cabinet approved the new status of forces agreement with the United States after PM al-Maliki and Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani both gave it the green light. Twenty-eight of the 37 cabinet ministers gave it the go-ahead; the other nine didn't vote No, they just didn't show up. The measure calls for the complete withdrawal of US forces from Iraqi cities in 2009 and complete withdrawal from the country by 2011.

It still needs to be approved by the entire 275-member Parliament, and the Sadr Party and other nationalist elements are still rather cheesed by the idea of waiting even that long for the US occupation to end.

That's not to say that all is sweetness and light in Mesopotamia; far from it. Bombings continue in Baghdad and other cities, and people are still getting killed. The Parliament finally passed the provincial elections law, but tensions are increasing in the city of Kirkuk (which may become a major flashpoint between Iraqi Arabs and Kurds).

And now to Afghanistan.

Two US soldiers were wounded and one soldier in the UK's Royal Gurkhas Regiment was killed in separate attacks and operations in southern Afghanistan. Thirty militants were killed in operations down in Helmand Province, and a leading militant was captured alive.

Meanwhile relations with Pakistan along its border with Afghanistan continue to remain a very sore spot. Pakistan decried yet another missile attack by a suspected US-controlled drone aircraft in Waziristan that killed eight suspected militants. Anti-American sentiment in that part of the country and in the rest of Pakistan are rising, and President Zardari repeated his call to stop the missiles, saying that it wasn't exactly making his job any easier.

I have a question: Who was the bright fellow who actually suggested moving materiel for our troops through the Khyber Pass?!

Afghanistan doesn't have a coastline, so no ports; its infrastructure is somewhat primitive so there are few highways (although there used to be one connecting it with Uzbekistan which, while not exactly a friend, was a primary staging area when we invaded in 2001), which leaves the only real route into the country. And let's not go into Afghanistan's other neighbor ... Iran.

Unfortunately the Khyber Pass is in one of those restive northwest border provinces that is giving shelter and support to the resurgent Taliban and al-Qaeda forces. Things are getting rather nasty there, and several supply convoys have come under attack. On Tuesday a convoy of 13 trucks (12 carrying wheat and one toting Humvees for US forces) was hijacked by about 60 to 70 militants.

So Pakistan has closed the Khyber Pass until things improve a bit, security-wise, and there's a traffic jam as trucks wait for the green light. Which could take a while.

And that's where we are so far.

No comments: