It looks like we may need to change the name of the blog once again, this time to Today in Iraq and Afghanistan (and Syria?) as U.S. special forces will now be deployed to Kurdish territory in Syria, and while the Obama administration insists that "we are not in combat" in Iraq, Col. Steve Warren in Baghdad tells reporters:
"We’re in combat,” he said, speaking via video feed to reporters at the Pentagon. “That’s why we all carry guns. That’s why we all get combat patches when we leave here. That’s why we all receive imminent danger pay. So, of course it’s combat.” Officials say the ground mission is primarily an advisory, not combat, one, but say American personnel are bound to encounter combat or kinetic situations from time to time, as they did in Hawijah. How often that occurs may depend on whether Obama approves proposed steps that would expand U.S. operations in Iraq and Syria, including embedding American troops with Iraqi units closer to the front lines.Waist deep in the Big Muddy.
Meanwhile, a rocket attack on a former U.S. military base housing the Iranian dissident group Mujahedeen-e-Khalq kills 23. This is a somewhat complicated story for those new to Iraqi affairs, but the organization -- which was an armed insurgency -- was harbored by Saddam Hussein whose government was hostile to Iran. After the U.S. invasion, when a Shiite led government took power, it no longer wanted to protect the group but the international community has prevented them from acting against it. (They were moved from their previous location to the former Camp Liberty.) Despite its hostility to the Iranian regime, the U.S. classified the MEK as a terrorist organization (whatever that means). In any event, their fate is still undecided. Meanwhile, no-one has taken responsibility for the attack.
UNICEF says 2 million children in Iraq currently have no schooling.
People continue to flee IS-held territory to Kurdistan.
In Afghanistan, relief is still slow to arrive to remote regions affected by the recent earthquake.
"As of Friday, the government assessment teams and rescue personnel have failed to reach all affected districts in Kunar. The quake destroyed scores of houses. Villagers are staying in open spaces amid fears of aftershocks. They are in urgent need of food and warm clothes. The weather is very cold during the night. We also need food and blankets," Habid added. "People in remote areas are digging debris to find remnants of food for children."Now this is just weird. The United States Agency for International Development can’t pinpoint the location of nearly two dozen health facilities it funds in western Afghanistan, potentially putting them at risk for attack, and obviously meaning there is no meaningful oversight of the use of the funds.
The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction conducted site inspections at 23 of the 63 health facilities USAID funds in the province of Herat. It found only 12 of the facilities it visited were within one kilometer of the location provided by USAID, according to a new report. Seven facilities were more than five kilometers away. The watchdog’s review of information about the other 40 medical facilities in the province was only able to confirm the existence of 19 of the sites. “For the remaining 21 facilities, USAID provided old or unclear photographs which did not demonstrate the physical location or existence of the purported facility,” the report said.The Guardian reports that the exodus from Afghanistan is growing as people lose hope for the future.