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Outside View: Iraq War Challenge Remains

Iraqi forces do, however, now total some 192,000 trained and equipped personnel, and are taking over more missions. A total of 116 Iraqi military and special police battalions are now operational -- an increase of 22 over the last three months.

Washington (UPI) Oct 20, 2005
The Iraq insurgency will pose a continuing challenge to U.S. forces in the country. The data on the intensity of the fighting are mixed.

The Bush administration's October 2005 report to Congress does not show any decline in the number of attacks before the referendum. They totaled some 570 per week during Aug. 29 to October 2005. This compares with about 470 during Feb. 12 to Aug. 28; 515 during the previous election period from Nov. 27, 2004 to Feb. 11, 2005; and a previous peak of 540 per week during June 29 to Nov. 26 2004.

Average daily Coalition casualties have dropped from peaks of 24-25 per day in late 2004 to around 17 per day during the period before the referendum, but Iraqi casualties averaged around 65 per day during Aug. 29 to October 2005.

This compares with about 48 per day during Feb. 12-Aug. 28, 51 per day during the previous election period from Nov. 27, 2004 to Feb. 11, 2005, and 40 per day during June 29 June to Nov. 26, 2004.

Major infrastructure attacks still average around 10 per week. This compares with four per week during Feb. 12-Aug. 28, five during the previous election period from Nov. 27, 2004 to Feb. 11, 2005, and a pervious peak of 13 per week during April 1 to June 26, 2004.

The administration indicates that the insurgency is concentrated in Baghdad (500-plus attacks from Aug. 29 to Sept. 16), Ninevah (190-plus attacks during the same period), al-Anbar (440-plus attacks), and Salah ad Din (300 attacks) provinces.

These four provinces have less than 42 percent of Iraq's population but account for 85 percent of all attacks. If one considers population differences, Al Anbar and Salah ad Din provinces are the only ones that average more than one attack per day per 100,000 population (1.85 and 1.65). Baghdad and Ninawa average around 0.4)

Two other provinces have significant attack levels: Diyala (100 attacks) and Al Taming (65-plus attacks). They too average around 0.4 attacks per day per 100,000 population.

Only 6 percent of all attacks take place in 12 of the 18 remaining provinces -- which have some 50 percent of Iraq's population. These provinces had less than 10 attacks each during Aug. 29-Sept. 16. Aside from Babil, all average well under 0.05 attacks per 100,000 people per day.

A State Department poll found that 88 percent of the Iraqis questioned felt they were safe in their neighborhood and region in the mid-Euphrates region, and this percentage was 81 percent in Kurdish areas, and 78 percent in the south. However, 72 percent of the Iraqis polled in Baghdad, 83 percent in Mosul, and 45 percent in the Tikrit/Baquba area said they did not feel safe in their neighborhood and region.

Major Coalition military forces will be required at least through 2006. The Iraqi security forces still have many problems, and will not approach "critical mass" in terms of self-sustained war fighting capability until the spring through fall of 2006. They will then continue to need major assistance in training, equipment, sustainment, firepower, armor, air support, and mobility.

Iraqi forces do, however, now total some 192,000 trained and equipped personnel, and are taking over more missions. A total of 116 Iraqi military and special police battalions are now operational -- an increase of 22 over the last three months.

There are 88 operational army combat battalions versus 69 in February and five in August 2004. A total of 52 Iraqi Army and Special Operations Battalions are now fighting side by side with Coalition forces, and 36 battalions can play a lead role or fighting independently. This total of 36 has risen from 24 in June 2005 and 21 in March 2005.

The figures for the Special Police Forces total 26 battalions fighting side by side with Coalition forces, and two battalions playing a lead role or fighting independently. There are a total of 28 battalions capable of combat operations versus 13 this spring.

This mix of challenges and problems is not a reason to assume that Iraq cannot eventually work out the political compromises necessary to function as a cohesive state, and develop the forces it needs to help defeat the insurgency. However, this outcome is anything but certain.

One thing is certain, it will be at least mid-2006 before the real meaning of the referendum plays out in terms of practical Iraqi politics, and it could be much longer.

(Anthony H. Cordesman holds the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank.)

(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

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Japan, US And Australia To Hold Strategic Talks In Tokyo
Paris (AFP) Oct 20, 2005
The security situations in Iraq and Afghanistan are to feature prominently in the first-ever meeting of US, Japanese and Australian officials focused on trilateral strategic issues to begin Sunday, a senior US state department official said.







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