By Joe Sterling
Iraq and other "high-threat" areas such as Afghanistan are the focus of a U.S. State Department plan to use unarmed surveillance drones for the protection of American diplomatic facilities and personnel.
"The State Department has always used a wide variety of security tools and techniques and procedures to ensure the safety of our personnel and our facilities," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters. "We do have an unmanned aerial vehicle program."
The program is emerging about a month after U.S. troops departed Iraq and it's an example of the diplomatic corps moving into territory that was once the exclusive domain of American military and intelligence.
Recent political insecurity and an uptick in sectarian violence in Iraq are among the dangers facing personnel from the State Department, which has a huge presence in the country. FULL POST
After years of war and recent security setbacks, Iraq is making steady strides politically and economically ahead of the U.S. troop withdrawal scheduled for the end of the year, according to the special representative of the U.N. secretary-general for Iraq.
"Are you optimistic or are you pessimistic?” has been the question I have been asked most by many," said Ad Melkert, the head of the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq. He briefed the U.N. Security Council this week on the secretary-general’s latest report of the mission's activities in Iraq.
"In most of what I have witnessed in Iraq there is ground for cautious optimism, provided that determined leadership within the country and a stronger spirit of cooperation in the region with Iraq prevail."
Challenges persist, Melkert said but "real progress" has been made in replacing Iraq’s "ruthless" Saddam Hussein regime "with institutions mandated by constitutional principles." FULL POST
Canada is formally completing its fighting mission in Afghanistan this week, a move that marks the end of a robust combat presence centered in the dangerous and violent southern province of Kandahar.
The Canadian military on Tuesday formally transferred its last district in the province to the United States, where the U.S. 3rd Battalion 21st Regiment took over from the Canadian 1st Battalion, Royal 22nd Regiment.
On Thursday, Canadian Brig. Gen. Dean Milner will transfer command of NATO-led troops in Kandahar's Panjwai and Dand districts to U.S. command.
This transition comes as other countries make preparations for drawdowns and shifting to plans for non-combat missions in Afghanistan, such as training.