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Witness to History - Marine in Anbar On the Iraqi Election

Testing The New Guy On The Block

Whenever there are political changes, especially when it concerns the most powerful office in the world, you can expect challenges to that power.

Sometimes they come from the usual suspects.  "Dear Leader" and North Korea are getting ready to launch an ICBM (Taepodong-2 with a reported 4,000 mile range capable of hitting Alaska or Hawaii) in a month or so:

The apparent preparations for a launch, which are easily discernible by spy satellites, may be intended by the government as a way of asserting itself as it prepares to resume nuclear disarmament negotiations with the new US government of Barack Obama.

Dear Leader knows all about political brinksmanship and he wants to see how the Obama administration reacts to him and his machinations.  This is all a pretty normal course of events in international relations. If there's a new guy, the usual suspects try to test him to see what they can get away with.  And, if he blinks, well, the full court press will be on.

At other times, the challenge comes from a completely unexpected direction. Nathan Hodge at Wired reports:

Stunning news from Moscow: Russian news agencies are reporting that the government of Kyrgyzstan will close Manas Air Base, a vital conduit for U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

RIA-Novosti quotes Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev as saying that his government "has made the decision to end the term for the American base on the territory of Kyrgyzstan." (The RIA-Novosti news report, which followed a press conference in Moscow, has not been translated into English; the Associated Press has a summary.)

If true, it would be a major setback for U.S. operations. In 2005, Air Force Col. Randy Kee, the commander of the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing at Manas, told me the Kyrgyz base had become the "primary logistics hub" for Operation Enduring Freedom after neighboring Uzbekistan closed Karshi Khanabad airbase (better known as "K2") to U.S. forces. The United States has been working to open a northern supply line to Afghanistan in the face of ongoing insurgent attacks along the Khyber Pass route through Pakistan; Manas is a key link in the air bridge resupplying Afghanistan.

This is bad news.  K2 is critical to the fight in Afghanistan.  Some immediate diplomacy is called for to try to salvage the situation.  My guess is there's Putin somewhere in the woodpile.

So the first tests begin. 

Let's hope the new CIC has the wherewithal to handle them - 'cause this ain't bean bag.

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