Thursday, March 15, 2007
Mission Accomplished: CIVIL WAR IN IRAQ
WASHINGTON -- The US military for the first time yesterday said in a new report that some of the violence in Iraq can be described as a civil war.
In its bleakest assessment of the war to date, a quarterly Pentagon report said that last October through December was the most violent three-month period since 2003. Attacks and casualties suffered by coalition and Iraqi forces and civilians were higher than any other similar time span, according to the report.
Most of the data in the Pentagon's 42-page report is before President Bush ordered an additional 21,500 troops and thousands of support personnel to Baghdad to combat the escalating violence there. The report cautions that it should be considered "a baseline from which to measure future progress."
The Pentagon report was issued as Iraqi officials issued an upbeat assessment yesterday of the impact of the crackdown in Baghdad.
Members of the Bush administration have been loath to say that the US military is struggling to quell a civil war, and the report agreed that the term does not capture the complex situation there.
But it added, "Some elements of the situation in Iraq are properly descriptive of a 'civil war,' including the hardening of ethno-sectarian identities and mobilization, the changing character of the violence , and population displacements."
A similar assessment released by the US intelligence community last month came to roughly the same conclusion.
The Pentagon's report is the latest in a series of quarterly updates put out by the Pentagon, measuring the security and stability in Iraq. In detailing the increase in violence, the report said that 80 percent of the attacks from November through January were concentrated in four provinces -- Baghdad, Anbar, Diyala, and Salah ad Din -- with Baghdad seeing a record 45 attacks per day. The other three provinces saw more than 70 attacks per day, during the same time frame.
The report showed that there were an average of more than 1,000 attacks per week, compared with nearly 1,000 per week in the last quarter, and about 800 per week during the May-to-August period. The reports provide bar charts but not exact numbers.
It also noted that while most of the attacks are directed against coalition forces, the majority of the casualties are suffered by Iraqis.
In Baghdad, Iraqi officials yesterday touted the successes of the crackdown, seen as a last-ditch attempt to quell the civil war, by noting that civilian casualties had dropped sharply in the first month of the plan.
Their US counterparts, however, offered a more cautious assessment.
Execution-style killings, the hallmark of sectarian death squads, were down by more than 50 percent, said Major General William B. Caldwell, the top US military spokesman in Iraq. But he said "high-profile" car bombings reached an all-time high in February and had the potential "to start that whole cycle of violence again."
US-led forces have focused their efforts in recent days on locating and destroying the facilities that produce car bombs; many of those facilities are believed to be on Baghdad's fringes, Caldwell told reporters at a briefing.
But he appealed for patience, saying it would be months before the United States has all its forces in place and that there might not be a discernible difference in Iraq until "the fall time frame."
Lieutenant General Abboud Qanbar, the Iraqi commander of the Baghdad security plan, said 265 civilians were killed and 781 injured since the crackdown began Feb. 13, compared with 1,440 killed and 3,192 injured the previous month. Sectarian displacement was also decreasing, and about 2,000 families had returned to their homes, he said.
"The achievements of the last 30 days cannot only be evaluated by numbers and statistics," he said at a briefing inside the heavily fortified Green Zone.
Many Sunni Arab and Shi'ite militants are believed to have fled Baghdad, contributing to the apparent decline in sectarian killing in the capital and a spike in attacks in parts of Diyala, Babil, and other outlying provinces.
Violence continued yesterday with at least eight Iraqis killed in a bomb blast and other attacks.A suicide car bomber exploded his vehicle at a military checkpoint in the Sunni-dominated Baghdad neighborhood of Yarmouk, killing at least one person and injuring four others, police said.
On a lighter note, Fox News Continued it Comedy Hour with it's regular programming:
Fox News: Iraq Civil War “Made Up By The Media?”
Fox News continues its crackerjack analysis of sectarian strife in Iraq. Previously, it explored whether “an all-out civil war in Iraq” could be “a good thing.”
Now they have an new theory. A few days ago on Fox: