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Iraq combat operations over?

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Draw down in Afghanistan

Well, in Afghanistan the surge has just crested. President Obama wants to draw down troops between now and the end of next summer, though there will still be almost 70,000 in Afghanistan after the current plans has been carried out. Meanwhile, the violence in Afghanistan is surging, too. The suicide attack that claimed 20 lives (nine of them attackers) at the InterContinental Hotel this week was a reminder that even relatively safe Kabul is not immune.

Overall, 201 US troops have died in Afghanistan this year (there have been 79 deaths for other NATO member forces), which already makes this year the third deadliest of the 10-year war (there were 499 US deaths last year and 317 in 2009).

The situation has been far worse for Afghan civilians. The UN reports 1,090 civilian deaths in Afghanistan and 1,860 injuries from the war in the past three months, a 20 percent increase over the same three month period last year. Over 80 percent of the casualties were attributed to "anti-government" attacks.

Key to ending all this are ongoing peace talks between the Afghan and US government, on the one hand, and the Taliban, on the other. Afghan society is badly fractured, both ethnically and ideologically, and has been living with war of one sort or another for decades. Reconciliation is a key element behind ending the war and reducing violence there.

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