Meanwhile, in Iraq and Afghanistan....

| Fri Jun. 26, 2009 3:42 PM EDT

Kevin is off for a few days--and not in Argentina. He'll be back and ready to blog on Tuesday. In the meantime, I will be your pilot.

Under usual circumstances, the withdrawal of US troops from a theater of war would be considered a big deal.

Not these days.

The United States has begun to pull troops out of Iraq, and there's not much attention being paid--even with the explosion of violence in Iraq this week. (Insert gratuitous Michael Jackson reference here.) And there are other milestones to look ahead to within Iraq. Reuters notes:

Many observers see Iraq's most crucial milestone being the parliamentary election next January, rather than the withdrawal of U.S. soldiers from town and cities by the end of this month.

That vote will be a defining test of whether the country's feuding factions can live together after the years of sectarian bloodshed unleashed by the 2003 U.S. invasion.

"Security gains in a narrow sense will be of limited value unless the ... election is turned into a thoroughly inclusive affair where Iraqis get the opportunity to discuss fundamental issues of national reconciliation in an open atmosphere," said Reidar Visser of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs and editor of Iraq-focused website www.historiae.org

This is something else to look forward to being insufficiently covered within the American media.

Just like the Afghanistan presidential election campaign now in process. From Politico:

Without strong preemptive action by the Obama administration and the international community, Afghanistan’s impending elections could be just as suspect — and have just as dire consequences — as Iran’s, a top opponent to Afghan President Hamid Karzai claimed on Tuesday.

“The possibility of a Kenya or a Zimbabwe or an Iran looms large,” said Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, a former World Bank official and Karzai adviser now challenging him for president in the Aug. 20 election.

Well, what would you expect a Karzai challenger to say? But what if he's right? A bad election in Afghanistan would truly undermine the US operation there. The International Crisis Group, a savvy NGO, has put out a report outlining the election challenges in Afghanistan. The group's South Asia project director, Samina Ahmed, notes: 

Ultimately, it is the perception of the Afghan population that will measure electoral success. If they are to be encouraged to vote, they must be confident that their ballots will count. But if perceived to be unfairly conducted, elections could provide a potential flashpoint.

Isn't Afghanistan already a flashpoint? Ugh.

You can follow David Corn's postings and media appearances via Twitter.