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Side-Effects Of The Surge

The underlying strategic problem remains the collapse of the democratic political strategy that the Bush administration pursued in Iraq. The Iraqi government remains a government in name only and its security forces remain generally ineffectual against militia forces as well as insurgents from both the Sunni and Shiite communities unless spearheaded by U.S. units.
by Martin Sieff
UPI Senior News Analyst
Washington (UPI) April 05, 2007
Are U.S. forces winning the battle for Baghdad, or losing it? Contradictory reports appearing in the American media currently suggest both developments at the same time. To make things more confusing, they are all correct.

The confidence among senior U.S. Army officers over the past month in Baghdad and in the Pentagon about the unfolding of Gen. David Petraeus' strategy of flooding the Iraqi capital with as many U.S. troops as he can is grounded in solid data.

Maj. Gen. William Campbell, the U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, said Wednesday militia-related murders in Baghdad had dropped by 26 percent in March compared with the record highs of February.

And as Anthony H. Cordesman, who holds the Arleigh A. Burke chair in strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, noted in a new study published Tuesday, "February and March saw a 50 percent decrease in sectarian execution-style killings" in the Iraqi capital of 6 million people.

Supporters of Petraeus' strategy such as Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who has just paid a visit to Iraq, therefore have good reason to see progress. This is especially the case since over the previous year all the violence indicators coming out of Baghdad, as we have noted in these and our companion "Iraq benchmarks" columns, had been slowly but remorselessly climbing ever higher. Now, by contrast, not only are many of those indicators falling, but they are clearly doing so in response to a new, well thought out and coherent U.S. strategy.

However, at the same time that the numbers and rate of militia-type killings in Baghdad have started falling dramatically, another violence benchmark figure has been rising fast.

"Iraq deaths (from car bombs) increased 15 percent from February to March," Cordesman wrote in his CSIS study, entitled "Iraq's Sectarian and Ethnic Violence: Developments Through Spring 2007."

In response to the new U.S. strategy to secure Baghdad, "The insurgency is adapting to fewer, large-scale bombings tailored to keep up the pressure for civil war," Cordesman wrote.

"Sunni insurgents are focusing on large suicide and car bombings designed to provoke civil war and show that Baghdad cannot be secured, while pushing Shiites towards reprisal attacks," he wrote.

The grim events of the past week and a half have shown that the insurgents have been able to implement this counter-strategy with exactly the kind of grisly results and reactions that they intended.

As we have predicted in previous Eye on Iraq columns, and as Cordesman has warned in previous analyses, the insurgents have reacted to the concentration of effective U.S. security forces in Baghdad by switching their resources to more vulnerable "soft" targets at gathering places for Shiite and Kurdish civilians out in Iraq's 18 provinces.

On Tuesday March 27, 152 people were killed in the northern city of Tel Afar, near Mosul, when insurgents detonated two truck bombs at busy markets frequented by Shiites. At least 47 Sunni civilians and possibly as many as 70 were killed the next day by rampaging Shiite militiamen out for revenge.

Two days later five suicide bombers attacked Shiite-frequented market places in northeast Baghdad, killing another 122 people and wounding more than 150. The attacks sent the statistics for civilians killed in Baghdad soaring sky high again, and seemed to make a mockery of the surge security strategy.

In fact, U.S. forces in Baghdad are making some headway against the terror bombing networks. Last week the U.S. Army announced the capture of leaders of one bombing terror network that was believed to have been responsible for killing hundreds of Shiites in the Sadr City section of Baghdad. But that announcement was followed by the five simultaneous attacks of March 29 that slaughtered 122 people in the city.

The general conclusions about the surge strategy that we have argued before in these columns still appear valid in the light of the most recent events. U.S. forces remain highly effective against the insurgents and in being able to provide security when they can be deployed in sufficient concentrations and for sufficient periods of time. However, even with the reinforcements provided under the surge strategy, there are far too few of them to contain, let alone eliminate the insurgency throughout Iraq.

The underlying strategic problem remains the collapse of the democratic political strategy that the Bush administration pursued in Iraq. The Iraqi government remains a government in name only and its security forces remain generally ineffectual against militia forces as well as insurgents from both the Sunni and Shiite communities unless spearheaded by U.S. units.

These conditions look unlikely to change for the better in the foreseeable future, however successful the surge policy is in restoring short-term stability to the streets of Baghdad.

Source: United Press International

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The Truck Bomb Menace Spreads
Washington (UPI) April 06, 2007
Just as IEDs remain the main cause of casualties and the dominant factor driving U.S. combat tactics in Iraq, car bombs remain the main cause of civilian casualties from the insurgency. According to the Iraq Index Project of the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, the number of multiple fatality bombings in Iraq for the month of March was 51.

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