After months of initiatives and statements from the new Obama administration indicating it intended to reverse U.S. policy and reopen relations with Syria, President Obama, on May 7, signed an executive order renewing sanctions on Damascus that had been put in place by President George W. Bush in 2004.
Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Amman, Jordan, on May 8 at the beginning of an eight-day Holy Land pilgrimage. Besides Jordan, the pope’s tour will include visits to Israel and the Palestinian territories. The spiritual leader of the world’s 1.1 billion Catholics had barely set foot in predominantly Muslim Jordan, however, when it became apparent that the reaction to his visit among followers of Islam would vary widely.
If our military is any indication, it just may be true that there are no atheists in a foxhole. The armed forces have long seemed to be an arena wherein faith runs strong, and while this is laudable, it also creates problems with today’s secular civilian authorities and top brass. One example of this disconnect has just played out, with a recent story about how American soldiers in Afghanistan were skirting military rules by engaging in shadow proselytization. Military.com reports:
Pakistani fighter jets and helicopters struck Taliban positions in the country's Swat Valley on May 7 as the military continued its offensive against Taliban militants. A peace accord announced on February 16 — according to which Pakistan’s government agreed to a system of strict Islamic law, or sharia, in Swat in return for the Taliban’s promise to end insurgent violence and disarm — collapsed last month. Taliban gunmen, instead of laying down their arms as agreed, advanced to within 60 miles of the capital, Islamabad. U.S. officials, concerned that the Taliban were using Northwest Pakistan as a staging area against U.S. operations in neighboring Afghanista denounced the accord, saying the government was appeasing the militants.
Back in February, Gen. David McKiernan, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, predicted that the additional 17,000 U.S. troops scheduled to be sent to Afghanistan would remain there for three to five years. The additional 17,000 troops would bring total U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan up to around 55,000, and an AP article in the Army Times for February 19 reported that still another 10,000 U.S. soldiers could be sent to Afghanistan in the future.