Commentary on the economic , geopolitical and simply fascinating things going on. Served occasionally with a side of snark.
Friday, January 31, 2014
War Watch January 31 , 2014 - US trying to push every button to get Karzai to sign that BSA ( Hagel blasts Karzai , meanwhile Afghanistan not trustworthy with US Aid audit made public ) ...... Iraq daily death dealing not a shocker , Justice Department allegations that US and Kuwaiti contractors gave US soldiers unsanitized ice from temporary morgue trailers is shocking ..... Syria sees foreeign fighters getting on the ground training in Syria - and then they will go home , US grouses over slow speed of Syria chemical weapon disposal - how could syria security concerns being unfounded as shipping of the chemical weapons has to occur from the port of Latakia - deep within rebel held territory ( and note the Rbels have already hit Syria chemical arms sites twice since the disposal program commenced ) ?
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel expressed growing frustration about the Karzai government’s refusal to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), saying they “can’t just keep deferring and deferring” because it’s screwing up Pentagon plans.
The BSA would keep US troops in Afghanistan “through 2024 and beyond,” and US officials have repeatedly demanded President Hamid Karzai sign the pact, though he has insisted he won’t do so until after the April election that ends his term in office.
Hagel claimed Karzai’s position on the BSA “changes constantly” and that he isn’t sure what the Afghan president’s current position is. In every public statement for months, Karzai has said he won’t sign the deal.
Initially, the US set an ultimatum of December 31 to sign the deal, but after Karzai refused and the deadline passed, they have said the new deadline is “weeks, not months.” Officials initially threatened to withdraw outright if Karzai didn’t sign off on the deal, though the Pentagon has repeatedly confirmed that not occupying Afghanistan for years to come hasn’t been seriously considered as an option.
A new report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) is offering some of the first looks at three years worth of audits of Afghan management of the aid provided by USAID.
Anyone whose paid even cursory attention to Afghanistan’s legendary level of corruption could expect the audits were bad, but they turned out to be so bad that USAID officials tried to keep SIGAR from disclosing them for years,
The report detailed 107 “major risks” to providing aid money directly to the Afghan government, mostly critical and mostly centering around how millions of dollars in cash have a nasty tendency of disappearing in Afghanistan.
SIGAR issued a secondary report at the same time about the Salang Hospital in Parwan Province, a rural, US-built facility that cost over half a million dollars, and which was not built to standard. The hospital, which has neither clean running water nor electricity, is operating “more as a medical clinic than as a hospital” as it was supposed to. The report detailed that the lack of water meant staff would bathe patients in untreated water drawn from a nearby river.
The US has thrown billions of dollars in aid at Afghanistan during the occupation, but between fraud by officials, fraud by contracts, and ill-conceived planning, the plans have accomplished very little, leaving the nation with crumbling roads and infrastructure, and a lot of recently constructed buildings that are of no use.
The toll numbers were high today as scores of militants were killed in Anbar province. Also, several bombings took place again in Baghdad, and so did the failed takeover of a government building. Overall, at least 93 people were killed in the violence, and101 more were wounded.
Estimates on foreign fighters by nation have varied widely, but of particular concern are manyhundreds of fighters from EU member nations, who after the war will retain al-Qaeda contacts and EU passports that will give them access to virtually everywhere in the world.
With the Syrian Civil war dragging on longer than anyone had figured, the foreign fighters have stayed in Syria for the long haul, and more and more of them keep showing up, leading al-Qaeda and others to build training bases just for foreign brigades.
But when the war finally does end, those fighters will scatter around the world, using the training and indoctrination they are getting in Syria to launch strikes everywhere.
Though Syria met the deadline for dismantling its chemical weapons program, the Obama Administration is angrily condemning them for having missed the deadline for shipping chemicals abroad, saying they are engaged in “open-ended delaying.”
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) had confirmed that delays were likely, since shipping is out of the port of Latakia, deep in rebel-held territory, and there were considerable security concerns.
US Ambassador to the OPCW Robert Mikulak dubbed the security concerns “without merit,” and accused Syria of making excuses to delay shipping the now-useless chemicals abroad for dis-incorporation.
Despite the dismissive attitude of US officials, the OPCW has confirmed that Syrian rebels have successfully hit the nation’s chemical arms sites at least twice, and the OPCW has encouraged them to keep the timing of shipments secret to prevent the rebels from using the information for future attacks.