Military operations in Afghanistan have cost three U.S. servicemen (icasualties.org) their lives and an additional $2.4 billion over the past week.
In Iraq, thanks to a new plan endorsed by the Obama administration to keep no fewer than 3,000-4,000 American troops past the December full-withdrawal deadline, it appears as if taxpayers won't be getting a complete reprieve from not having to bankroll at least one of the two major war theaters. Security and reconstruction costs in Iraq currently run about $900 million per week. The deal is ambiguous as to the actual number of armed personnel (not to be confused with combat troops) that will be employed by the U.S. government to occupy Iraq in 2012. It is clear, however, that private military contractors will greatly outnumber U.S. soldiers.
The New York Times reports:
“The administration has already drawn up plans for an extensive expansion of the American Embassy and its operations, bolstered by thousands of paramilitary security contractors.”
The role of this expanded mercenary presence, according to the Pentagon, is to facilitate internal stability via training and material support for Iraqi Security Forces and to “fill the gaps” in Iraq's national defense. The announcement of U.S. intentions in Iraq was made without the permission and approval of the Iraqi Parliament or the Prime Minister.
Elsewhere in the Mid-East, human rights officials say 21 people died Wednesday in the Syrian city of Homs, a major protest hub. Reports indicate that most of the fatalities were the result of a tank assault on the city. Syrian state media's version of events is very distinct: Eight Syrian soldiers were killed in clashes with “insurgents,” while five insurgents lost their lives. The Syrian Arab News Agency also broadcast a statement by a supposed Saudi-funded provocateur who confessed to carrying out the Homs attacks.
During a photo-op at ground zero Tuesday, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta warned Americans to be wary of Yemen, saying that the biggest potential source of another 9/11-style event would surely come from their part of the Arabian Peninsula. The chances that another 9/11 would occur are "very real," said Panetta.
To round out this week's war update, Human Rights Watch is warning about another very real threat in the form of ex-North African leader Moammar Gadhafi's missing stockpiles of surface-to-air missiles. Reports from Tripoli say that weapon depots being uncovered by rebel forces are coming up empty and that weapon warehouses have yielded nothing but empty crates and missing packing lists. With its export economy now in shambles, it's not hard to imagine a scenario where destitute loyalists have been turning to the black market arms trade to cover expenses.