Global Policy Forum

Post-Zarqawi Violence Keeps Surging in Iraq


By Michael R. Gordon, Mark Mazzetti and Thom Shanker

New York Times
August 17, 2006

The number of roadside bombs exploded or found in Iraq rose in July to the highest monthly total since the war began, offering more evidence that the anti-American insurgency has continued to strengthen despite the killing of the terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in June. Along with a sharp increase in attacks on Iraqi civilians, the number of daily attacks on U.S. and Iraqi security forces has doubled since January. And while monthly U.S. military fatalities have declined slightly, reflecting improvements in armor and other defenses, the number of U.S. troops wounded has soared, to 518 in July from 287 in January.

The bomb statistics - compiled by the U.S. military authorities in Baghdad and made available at the request of The New York Times - are part of a growing body of data and intelligence analysis about the violence in Iraq that has produced somber public assessments from military commanders, administration officials and members of Congress. "The insurgency has gotten worse by almost all measures, with insurgent attacks at historically high levels," said a senior Defense Department official who was not authorized to speak for attribution. "The insurgency has more public support and is demonstrably more capable in numbers of people active and in its ability to direct violence than at any point in time."

A separate, classified report by the Defense Intelligence Agency, dated Aug. 3, details worsening security conditions inside the country and describes how Iraq risks sliding toward civil war, according to several officials who have read the document or who have received a briefing on its contents. Bush administration officials reject the idea that Iraq is on the verge of civil war and express confidence that their broad strategy in Iraq remains on course.

The nine-page Defense Intelligence Agency study, "Iraq Update," compiles the most recent empirical data on numbers of attacks, bombings, murders and other violence, as well as diagrams of the groups carrying out insurgent and sectarian attacks, the officials said. In late July, DIA officials briefed several Senate committees on a draft of the study, and one recipient described it as "extremely negative." The report's contents are being widely discussed among Pentagon officials, military commanders and, in particular, in Congress, where concern among senior lawmakers of both parties is growing.

The military's statistics show that 2,625 roadside bombs and similar devices were discovered in Iraq in July; 1,666 of them exploded, and 959 were found beforehand. The total includes bombs that are directed against U.S. troops, Iraqi security forces and Iraqi civilians, but the overwhelming majority of the bombs represent attacks against U.S. and Iraqi forces. An analysis of the bombs that exploded shows that 90 percent were directed against the U.S.-led military coalition and Iraqi security forces, while 10 percent targeted Iraqi civilians, according to a spokesman for the military command in Baghdad.

The new reports by the military and the intelligence community provide evidence that insurgent attacks and sectarian violence are at their highest levels, a significant rise since the time of expectation that followed parliamentary elections in December, in which Sunni Arabs voted heavily. Many Sunnis now believe that the new Shiite-dominated government has not made sufficient efforts to include them in a unity government. As the politics in Iraq have grown more polarized, attacks have soared, including sectarian clashes that have killed an average of more than 100 Iraqi civilians a day for the past two months. U.S. commanders have shifted thousands of soldiers from outlying provinces to Baghdad to combat increased violence in the capital.

Iraq is locked in a vicious cycle in which strikes by Sunni and Shiite militants against each other's communities aggravate fears and promote escalation of violence. The proportion of bomb attacks that struck Iraqi security forces was 20 percent in July, up from 9 percent in 2005. The 10 percent of blasts that targeted Iraqi civilians represented twice the rate of last year. The 2,625 bombs planted in July represent a near-doubling from January, when 1,454 bombs were planted, according to the military count.

According to U.S. military officials, attacks have also increased against U.S. and Iraqi military forces by methods other than bombs: mortars, rocket propelled grenades and small arms. But the number of roadside bombs is an especially important indicator of insurgent activity. In January, 42 U.S. service personnel were killed in action or died of their wounds, according to the Defense Department. In July, the number of killed in action was 38, and explosive devices accounted for slightly more than half of these deaths.

More Information on Iraq
More Information on Iraq's Resistance to the Occuapation
More Information on Leaders and Occupiers in Post-War Iraq
More Information on the Occupation and Rule in Iraq


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