This week in war

U.S. military officials have announced phase two of a plan to transition security duties away from U.S.-led Coalition forces to newly trained Afghan troops by 2014. After the second phase begins in December or January, strategists claim that 40 to 50 percent of Afghans will be living in areas secured by Afghan forces.

But some officials are pessimistic that Karzai’s security forces can take control of large portions of northern and western Afghanistan like the plan suggests. Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, the man in charge of training Afghan forces, says the Afghan military will probably require training until as late as 2017, citing the need for constant supervision of Afghan army battalions by U.S. or allied units.

An uptick in Taliban attacks against targets left under the sole protection of Afghan security forces marred the first phase of the transition. According to antiwar columnist John Glaser, these circumstances are:

“consistent with the al-Qaeda strategy to support Taliban attacks against NATO in order to sustain the US occupation as long as possible.” Glaser continues, “Keeping US/NATO forces embroiled in the Afghan war not only serves to bleed out American resources, it is also the greatest generator of extremist recruitment.”

At least one of Glaser’s assertions is documented fact.  Since last week’s update, the United States has spent $2.34 billion on the occupation of Afghanistan. Taking into account the $911 million it spent within the same timeframe on operations in Iraq, the U.S. expends an average of $3.2 billion a week maintaining both war theaters. A more immediate and enduring manifestation of the cost of these wars is the priceless metric of human lives. So far this month, five U.S. soldiers have died fighting in Iraq. Ten more U.S. fatalities were reported this past week in Afghanistan, bringing the total U.S. death toll there to 23 for the month.

Over in Libya, Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC) chairman Mustafa Abdul Jalil asked NATO on Wednesday to continue its airstrikes against the country until at least the end of December. Jalil made the announement in an interview with al-Jazeera, adding that he also wants “military advisors” on the ground. As loyalism to the Gadhafi revolution runs deep throughout the nation, the Benghazi-based NTC has been unsuccessful at occupying the western half of Libya. Jalil says he welcomes U.S./NATO forces on the ground to supplement“hundreds” of Qatari ground troops that have already been deployed to the region. NATO has postponed a vote on whether or not to end its bombing campaign at the end of the month.

Meanwhile, Kenya’s American-backed military foray into southern Somalia has made a humanitarian crisis far worse, aid groups are saying. Somoli refugees caught in the crossfire are finding it increasingly difficult to cross the border to refugee camps. Also, fighting in the region has made the delivery of humanitarian aid to affected Somolis all but impossible. What’s worse, Kenyan officials are now admitting that the invasion of Somolia had been planned for years and was not a knee-jerk response to a spate of kidnappings by Somali pirates, like they insisted last week.