Insurgent Bombs Directed at G.I.'s Increase in Iraq

August 17th, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: Insurgent Bombs Directed at G.I.'s Increase in Iraq

Media: New York Times
Byline: Michael R. Gorden, Mark Mazzetti, Thom Shankar
Date: 17 August 2006

The number of roadside bombs planted in Iraq rose in July to the highest
monthly total of the war, offering more evidence that the anti-American
insurgency has continued to strengthen despite the killing of the terrorist
leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Along with a sharp increase in sectarian attacks, the number of daily
strikes against American and Iraqi security forces has doubled since
January. The deadliest means of attack, roadside bombs, made up much of that
increase. In July, of 2,625 explosive devices, 1,666 exploded and 959 were
discovered before they went off. In January, 1,454 bombs exploded or were

The bomb statistics - compiled by American 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 lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

"The insurgency has gotten worse by almost all measures, with insurgent
attacks at historically high levels," said a senior Defense Department
official who agreed to discuss the issue only on condition of anonymity
because he 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.

The nine-page D.I.A. study, titled "Iraq Update," compiles the most recent
empirical data on the number of attacks, bombings, murders and other violent
acts, as well as diagrams of the groups carrying out insurgent and sectarian
attacks, the officials said.

The report's contents are being widely discussed among Pentagon officials,
military commanders and, in particular, on Capitol Hill, where concern among
senior lawmakers of both parties is growing over a troubling dichotomy: even
as Iraq takes important steps toward democracy - including the election of a
permanent government this spring - the violence has gotten worse.

Senior Bush administration officials reject the idea that Iraq is on the
verge of civil war, and state with unwavering confidence that the broad
American strategy in Iraq remains on course. But American commanders in Iraq
have shifted thousands of soldiers from outlying provinces to Baghdad to
combat increased violence in the Iraqi capital.

The increased attacks have taken their toll. While the number of Americans
killed in action per month has declined slightly - to 38 killed in action in
July, from 42 in January, in part reflecting improvements in armor and other
defenses - the number of Americans wounded has soared, to 518 in July from
287 in January. Explosive devices accounted for slightly more than half the

An analysis of the 1,666 bombs that exploded in July shows that 70 percent
were directed against the American-led military force, according to a
spokesman for the military command in Baghdad. Twenty percent struck Iraqi
security forces, up from 9 percent in 2005. And 10 percent of the blasts
struck civilians, twice the rate from last year.

Taken together, the new assessments by the military and the intelligence
community provide evidence that violence in Iraq is at its highest level
yet. And they describe twin dangers facing the country: insurgent violence
against Americans and Iraqi security forces, which has continued to increase
since the killing on June 7 of Mr. Zarqawi, the leader of the insurgent
group Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, and the primarily sectarian violence seen in
Iraqi-on-Iraqi attacks being aimed at civilians.

Iraq is now locked in a cycle in which strikes by Sunni Arab militants have
prompted the rise of Shiite militias, which have in turn aggravated Sunni
fears. Beyond that, many Sunnis say they believe that the new
Shiite-dominated government has not made sufficient efforts to create a
genuine unity government. As a result, Sunni attitudes appear to have

As the politics in Iraq have grown more polarized since the elections in
December, in which many Sunni Arabs voted, attacks have soared, including
sectarian clashes that have killed an average of more than 100 Iraqi
civilians per day over the past two months.

In addition to bombs, attacks with mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and
small-caliber weapons against American and Iraqi military forces have also
increased, according to American military officials. But the number of
roadside bombs - or improvised explosive devices as they are known by the
military - is an especially important indicator of enemy activity. Bomb
attacks are the largest killer of American troops. They also require a
network: a bomb maker; financiers to pay for the effort; and operatives to
dig holes in the road, plant the explosives, watch for approaching American
and Iraqi forces and set off the blast when troops approach.

With the violence growing in Iraq, American intelligence agencies are
working to produce a National Intelligence Estimate about the security
conditions there - the first such formal governmentwide assessment about the
situation in Iraq since the summer of 2004.

In late July, D.I.A. officials briefed several Senate committees about the
insurgent and sectarian violence. The presentation was based on a draft
version of what became the Aug. 3 study, and one recipient described it as
"extremely negative." That presentation was followed by public testimony on
Aug. 3 by Gen. John P. Abizaid, the top American military commander in the
Middle East, who told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the sectarian
violence was "probably as bad as I've seen it, in Baghdad in particular" and
said if it was not stopped, "it is possible that Iraq could move towards
civil war." General Abizaid later emphasized that he was "optimistic" that
the slide toward civil war could be prevented.

Officials who have read or been briefed on the new D.I.A. analysis said its
assessments paralleled both aspects of General Abizaid's testimony.

The newest accounts of the risks of civil war may already be altering the
political dynamic in Washington. After General Abizaid's testimony, the
chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Senator John W. Warner of
Virginia, said that if Iraq fell into civil war, the committee might need to
examine whether the authorization provided by Congress for the use of
American force in Iraq would still be valid. The comments by Senator Warner,
a senior Republican who is a staunch supporter of the president, have
reverberated loudly across Congress.

Bush administration officials now admit that Iraqi government's original
plan to rein in the violence in Baghdad, announced in June, has failed. The
Pentagon has decided to rush more American troops into the capital, and the
new military operation to restore security there is expected to begin in
earnest next month.

Yet some outside experts who have recently visited the White House said Bush
administration officials were beginning to plan for the possibility that
Iraq's democratically elected government might not survive.

"Senior administration officials have acknowledged to me that they are
considering alternatives other than democracy," said one military affairs
expert who received an Iraq briefing at the White House last month and
agreed to speak only on condition of anonymity.

"Everybody in the administration is being quite circumspect," the expert
said, "but you can sense their own concern that this is drifting away from

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