Thursday, November 02, 2006

Iraq - debates continue as death toll rises

An intense debate in the UK parliament failed to convince the majority of MPs to vote for an inquiry into the Iraq war [BBC]. Many members of the house urged a review of mistakes made and what might be done for the future, but after more than four hours of debate 298 MPs voted against the proposal, a majority of 25.
Meanwhile Democrat John Kerry was stirring controversy in the US with a ‘joke’ he made during campaign trail. He has since apologized, but he has been ostracised from other Democratic meetings. “I sincerely regret that my words were misinterpreted”, Kerry said late yesterday. But many will not let his comments go. He had urged students to study hard and pass their exams and ended with the line, “If you don’t do well, you may well get stuck in Iraq”. Many have interpreted this as a slur on the intelligence of the average marine fighting in Iraq but Kerry insisted it was intended to be an attack of Bush’s recruitment policy. Bush said last night that “anybody in a position to rule country ought to understand the consequences of words”.

However many Democrats were urging the debate be moved on. One said “forget what he [Kerry] said about Iraq, look at the actions of what Bush has done in Iraq” [CNN].

Meanwhile the situation in Iraq continues to spin out of control [CNN]. On Monday, 30 died and 60 were injured in a blast in Sadr city, in north east Baghdad. At least 50 others were killed around the country [BBC]. Tuesday brought further attacks. In one incident 15 were killed and at least 19 were injured when a bomb ripped through a wedding party on the outskirts of Sadr city [BBC]. Violence on Wednesday took at least 27 victims. A police officer was one of three shot dead in the northern town of Mosul, and at least three bombs in Baghdad killed four. And as October drew to a close, another US soldier was killed. He was the 105th US soldier to die in October and the 2,819th US troop to die since the conflict begun in March 2003. In total 3,058 coalition troops have died in the 1,323 days of conflict []. A conflict that is likely to continue for many months to come. The US military says it may be more than 18 months before the Iraqi forces can take over fully from the coalition forces. Many Iraqi forces have been infiltrated by insurgents and there are estimates that connections to such militias can be as high as 70%.

In Afghanistan the situation is little better. Battles continue against the Taleban daily. But the US forces are stretched thin. There are less than three soldiers for every mile of the Pakistani border which stretches some 400 miles. Five hundred and three coalition troops have died in Afghanistan since November 2001, with seventeen killed in October. The highest death toll this year was September when 38 troops were killed, six of them from the US. The major turning point was February when casualty numbers jumped from 1 in January to 17. Only April saw a major drop in the number of troops killed with only 5 reported deaths. 2005 also saw a high casualty rate, topping 130 in 12 months. But there were lulls in the fighting with only 5 months showing casualty rates in double figures. Total casualty figures for 2002, 2003 and 2004 reached only as high as 68. The total for the first three years of conflict totalling 195, including 12 that died in less than two months of conflict at the end of 2001. Posted by Picasa

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