Monday, January 3, 2011

Binocular Snapshot for 1/03/2011

LastDayWatchers know that God curse of the Bush/Obama Administrations will continue

Three Iraqis, two US soldiers killed in Iraq

"Gun and bomb attacks killed three Iraqis and wounded 15 on Monday, security officials said, while the US military said two US soldiers had been killed, the first to die in Iraq this year.

A suicide car bomb exploded Monday morning outside a police intelligence office in Baquba north of the Iraqi capital, killing a man and wounding 15 other people, a security official and a doctor said.

The bombing targeted the office, located in a central market, at about 11:00 am (0800 GMT), the security official said, adding that guards protecting the building and girls on a nearby school bus were among the wounded.

Just before the suicide bomber blew up the car, insurgents threw several hand grenades into the intelligence office. It was the first attack against the centre, which was opened three years ago

Dr Firas al-Dulaimi, who works at the main hospital in Baquba, said the wounded included 10 girls, two men, and three guards from the intelligence office, who suffered serious injuries.

In central Baghdad, gunmen early on Monday broke into the home of a Christian woman, Rafah Toma, shot her dead and made off with a number of her possessions, an interior ministry official said.

Toma, who lived alone in Al-Wahda neighbourhood, is the latest victim of a string of attacks on Christians in Iraq, with the official saying she was likely targeted because of her religion.

On Thursday, at least two Christians were killed and 16 others wounded in a wave of bomb attacks on Christian targets in Baghdad, while 44 worshippers, two priests and seven security forces members were killed in an October 31 attack by militants on a Baghdad church.

The interior ministry official, who would not be named, also said that a policeman was shot dead by gunmen with silenced weapons in Taifiya in northern Baghdad on Monday. He gave no further details.

The policeman's death followed a string of similar attacks on Sunday night in which a traffic police colonel, two other police, an army captain and an engineer were gunned down in five separate attacks in Baghdad by gunmen with silenced weapons.

Gunmen also severely wounded a colonel with the interior ministry on Sunday.

The US military on Monday announced that two US soldiers have been killed in central Iraq.

"Two US service members were killed in central Iraq Sunday night while in support of Operation New Dawn," a statement from the US military said.

Operation New Dawn is the name for US military activities in Iraq from September 1, 2010, after the declared end of combat operations.

"This was one incident resulting in the death of two US service members. These are the first deaths of any US service member in 2011," a spokeswoman for the military said, without giving further details on how the two were killed, or to which branch of the military they belonged.

The latest deaths brings to 4,432 the number of American soldiers to have died in Iraq since the 2003 US-led invasion to oust Saddam Hussein, according to an AFP tally based on data from independent website"

God promise of "plundering" to Manasseh will continue as well

U.S.-funded infrastructure deteriorates once under Afghan control

"Roads, canals and schools built in Afghanistan as part of a special U.S. military program are crumbling under Afghan stewardship, despite new steps imposed over the past year to ensure reconstruction money is not being wasted, according to government reports and interviews with military and civilian personnel.

U.S. troops in Afghanistan have spent $2 billion in the past six years on 16,000 humanitarian projects through the Commander's Emergency Response Program, which gives a battalion-level commander the power to treat aid dollars as ammunition.

A report slated for release this month reveals how quickly CERP projects can slide into neglect after being transferred to Afghan control. The Afghans had problems maintaining about half of the 69 projects reviewed in eastern Afghanistan's Laghman province, according to an audit by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

Dilapidated projects could present a challenge to the U.S. strategy of shifting more responsibility to Afghans. Investing in infrastructure, notes President Obama's December review of the war, "will give the Afghan government and people the tools to build and sustain a future of stability."

"Sustainment is one of the biggest issues with our whole strategy," said a civilian official who shared details from a draft of the report. "The Afghans don't have the money or capacity to sustain much."

Photos in the report show washed-out roads, with gashes and potholes where improvised explosive devices can be hidden. Among the projects profiled is a re-dredged canal that filled with silt a month after opening. The official requested anonymity because the Defense Department is preparing a response to the audit.

Multiple reports by the Government Accountability Office have noted the lack of monitoring by the Pentagon. And because formal U.S. oversight stops after a project is turned over to Afghans, it is hard to gauge how projects are maintained countrywide.

When asked whether the Afghans have trouble sustaining projects, the U.S. military responded with a statement saying it does not have the information to provide an immediate answer.

In response to "insufficient management," CERP guidance for Afghanistan was revised in December 2009, according to a statement by the military. The new guidance emphasizes the need to meet with Afghan leaders when choosing what to fund. It does not, however, require U.S. troops to continue inspecting projects after they are placed under Afghan control.

Under the guidance, an Afghan governor, mayor or bureaucrat must sign a letter promising to fund maintenance and operations. But an October SIGAR audit of projects in Nangarhar province found that only two of the 15 files examined contained a signed letter. Nor is there formal reporting to the national or provincial Afghan governments of what was spent and built, the audit said. That makes it difficult for Afghans to know what they are supposed to maintain.

The provincial and district governments that take over the projects do not have the money to sustain them because they cannot collect taxes and depend on the national government for funding, said Army Maj. David Kaczmarek, the civil affairs officer for Task Force Bastogne in eastern Afghanistan.

The U.S. military tracks CERP projects with poorly maintained computer databases. Before October 2009, the database did not consistently record the villages or districts where projects were built, according to military and civilian personnel who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the master database is classified.

A civilian official who examined the contents of the database for a government assessment said the military cannot hold spending accountable without knowing the villages and districts that received projects.

"Let's say the project is not working," the official said. "Why would we want to fund that project again the next year? Very little evaluation was done to decide what we fund next"

The organizational problems have also frustrated attempts to study whether the $2 billion spent on CERP has been effective. A paper co-written by Princeton University professor Jacob Shapiro found that CERP reduced violence in Iraq. Shapiro and his colleagues have struggled over the past nine months to conduct a similar study for Afghanistan because of the database.

"There's not a sense of how the program may or may not be working in Afghanistan," Shapiro said.

Army Lt. Col. Brian Stoll tried to clean up the database while serving in Kandahar last year

He champions CERP as a way to build confidence in the Afghan government, despite the mess he found.

Projects dating to 2006 had never been closed out, said Stoll, who updated the files while working 12-hour days to audit ongoing projects in southern Afghanistan.

"We never got it all cleaned up," Stoll said. "It was like a Hydra. You get part of it cleaned up and you find some more along the way"

For continued 100% accuracy read the May 15th Prophecy written at LastDayWatchers