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Back to square one

By Arnaud de Borchgrave, UPI Editor at Large   |   July 30, 2014 at 3:02 PM

| License Photo
The Iraq and Afghan wars have cost the U.S. taxpayer upwards of $2 trillion thus far -- and the meter is still running in both theaters.

In Afghanistan, after 12 years of combat operations and the costly training and equipping of a 360,000-strong army, and the loss of 2,800 U.S. killed in action, Taliban, the enemy we went in to defeat, is making steady gains around the capital.

The Vietnam syndrome is in the air and SIGAR, the U.S. government investigative agency, is reporting abandonment of some U.S.-funded aid projects that can no longer be protected, let alone inspected.

This week, SIGAR said the U.S. Defense Department cannot trace over 40 percent of the weapons it turned over to Afghan security forces. Many of them found their way into the black market -- and Taliban's hands.

Afghan security forces are under steadily increasing fire around Kabul, the capital, and have sustained heavy casualties. This goes largely unreported.

Successful U.S. withdrawal plans by year's end are now in jeopardy as these Afghan forces fail to hold their own.

Only two months into the yearly fighting season, the Taliban are probing and testing to determine whether they can collapse Afghan security forces before the U.S. exit at year's end -- or will have to wait until only a small U.S. residual force is left next year.

Taliban have already driven away security forces from entire valleys, forcing several hundred villagers to flee. There are reports that in some areas, local police officers turned themselves over to Taliban guerrillas and were asked to continue their duties.

Some reports say that up to 100 Afghan soldiers and police are now killed weekly. Afghan casualty figures are now classified.

Iraq, the other trillion dollar boondoggle, is mired in petty party politics while the new Islamist extremist movement advancing on Baghdad -- formerly ISIS and now plain IS -- already controls large swaths of Syria and northern Iraq.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has emerged as the new leader of Islamist extremism after proclaiming himself caliph, which some are already calling the new Osama Bin Laden.

At this point, we should remind ourselves that Iraq is the Middle East's second most important oil producer after Saudi Arabia.

It wasn't all that long ago the U.S. invaded Iraq to depose dictator Saddam Hussein on the palpably phony grounds that he had built a secret nuclear arsenal with which he was planning to cower and dominate the entire region.

The elaborate tall tale was made up by a phony Iraqi army defector to Germany -- actually a civilian trying to hook up again with a German girlfriend -- who refused to come to the U.S. to be debriefed.

President Bush believed the story until he proclaimed victory May 1, 2003, devoid of Saddam's fictitious nuclear arsenal, from the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln. He landed in the co-pilot's seat and then under a banner "Mission Accomplished" flapping overhead, told a worldwide television audience that the U.S. and its allies had prevailed.

The war went on for eight more bloody years.

Vice President Cheney knew all along Saddam had zero nukes. His main interest was to establish a democracy in Iraq which he believed would have a rippled effect among Israel's neighbors and provide the Jewish state with 25 years of peace and security.

Given the bloody failures of Afghanistan and Iraq, President Obama is understandably gun-shy and reluctant to get more deeply involved in a geopolitical game he clearly does not understand.

John Kerry, his Secretary of State, while well-equipped intellectually for the job, showed yawning gaps of Middle Eastern knowledge, when he made 12 roundtrips to the Middle East in almost as many weeks in the mistaken belief that Israel and Hamas in Gaza were ready for a Middle Eastern settlement.

Hamas' core belief and ambition is a Palestinian state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, i.e., no room for a Jewish state except as a stepping stone to the final objective, its destruction.

Hamas' tunnel network into Israel and its secretly acquired missile arsenal from Iran hopefully has persuaded Secretary Kerry that his role for the time being is similar to the legend of the Dutch boy with his finger in the dike.

Israel, meanwhile, expanded the scope of its Gaza incursion and the death and destruction that followed included entire buildings and dozens of children.

Two of the more horrific bombings blamed on the Israelis were of eight killed in a kindergarten and the outpatient clinic of Gaza's Shifa Hospital. But IDF quickly called it self-inflicted by Islamic Jihad whose rockets, concealed in these two locations, misfired.

Another high-tech advantage for Israeli casualties: TopClosure 3S Trauma Management System. Invented by Dr. Moris Topaz, it has revolutionized the closure of wounds to avoid further damage and contamination to the injured tissues.

While fighting spread across Syria into Iraq, another oil producing state, Libya, disintegrated as a nation-state with Islamists fighting for control in the streets of Tripoli and U.S. Embassy personnel and its Marine guards escaping by road at night and driving 100 miles to the safety still offered by Tunisia.

As the U.S. is about to achieve independence for its oil supplies, it won't be a moment too soon.

The international situation is at its most precarious since the end of the old Cold War. And a new Cold War is already underway over Russia's barely concealed designs on Ukraine.

The International Business Times reports that $75 billion fled the Russian Federation in the first half of 2014 and will easily reach $100 billion by year's end. Russia's economy is on the brink of recession.

While Sen. John McCain spared no electronic effort to plug for the U.S. to do something -- anything -- the U.S. Congress, undeterred, closed its doors for its annual August recess.

It may also have concluded there wasn't much it could do. Israel is determined to defang Hamas for a long time to come by destroying its elaborate nine lane network of tunnels into Israel. And major cuts in the U.S. armed forces are now on the Congressional agenda for the fall.

© 2014 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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