Iraq Attacks Lower, But Steady, New Figures Show

March 12th, 2008  
Team Infidel

Topic: Iraq Attacks Lower, But Steady, New Figures Show

New York Times
March 12, 2008
Pg. 8
By James Glanz and Eric Schmitt
BAGHDAD — Newly declassified statistics on the frequency of insurgent attacks in Iraq suggest that after major security gains last fall in the wake of an American troop increase, the conflict has drifted into a stalemate, with levels of violence remaining stubbornly constant from November 2007 through early 2008.
The new figures, presented Tuesday at a Senate hearing in Washington by David M. Walker, the top official at the Government Accountability Office, emerged a day after eight American soldiers were killed in bomb attacks, five in downtown Baghdad and three in Diyala Province. And the trend appeared to continue Tuesday, as bombings and small-arms attacks led to casualties among Iraqi civilians and security forces in or near at least eight cities.
In the deadliest of those attacks, a roadside bomb between the southern cities of Nasiriya and Basra struck a bus full of Iraqi civilians, killing at least 16 and wounding 22, Iraqi police officials said. But Iraqi security forces also reported deadly attacks in Hilla, Karbala, Baquba, Mosul, Kut, Baghdad and Dulia, just north of the capital.
In a report presented to the Senate Appropriations Committee, Mr. Walker, the comptroller general, acknowledged that the insurgent attacks tallied by the American military had decreased to an average of about 60 a day in January, in the latest available count, from about 180 a day in June 2007.
But that lower number, which is roughly equivalent to the levels of violence in the spring of 2005, has remained essentially unchanged since the last significant decrease between October and November.
“While security has improved in Iraq, a permissive security environment has yet to be achieved,” Mr. Walker wrote, using a term meaning an environment safe for ordinary business and social activity.
Mr. Walker and two other federal officials also testified about concerns over corruption in contracting and about problems tracking arms shipments to Iraqi and American forces.
American commanders in Iraq have been warning for months that the security gains were far from irreversible, particularly since progress in Iraqi political reconciliation, which would presumably address the tensions underlying the violence, has been halting.
Smaller security improvements in the past have been followed by surges in violence. Modest gains in security near the end of 2005, for example, were obliterated a few months later when the bombing of a sacred mosque in Samarra set off nearly a year of sectarian killings.
Based on reports from February, violence may already be increasing. An independent tally by The Associated Press recorded a jump last month in the average number of Iraqis killed per day compared with January’s figures.
The accountability office figures use a different measure, the number of attacks recorded against security forces and Iraqi civilians.
Daily reports of violence are, by their nature, grainy and uncertain measures of trends in Iraq, but following the large American death toll the day before, the attacks on Tuesday were strikingly widespread.
A health directorate official in Kut said clashes between the police and the Mahdi Army, the dominant Shiite militia, left 14 people dead and 47 wounded. In Dulia, a police official said, a suicide car bomber detonated his explosives at a checkpoint, killing five and wounding 30.
And in Baghdad, a bomb exploded in a neighborhood council meeting, killing one council member and wounding eight others, while gunmen in another part of the city attacked a prison for juveniles, wounding three guards and freeing three inmates, an Interior Ministry official said.
The Senate hearing also dealt with findings by both the accountability office and an independent federal oversight agency, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, that thousands of pistols, automatic rifles and other equipment delivered to Iraq cannot be accounted for.
Under questioning by Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, the Defense Department’s inspector general, Lt. Gen. Claude M. Kicklighter, a retired Army officer, said a system was in place to prevent “a major leakage” of weapons to insurgents or the black market. He said weapons of Iraqi forces and the American-led coalition were now accounted for by serial number, down to the company level.
“That’s not awfully comforting,” Mr. Leahy said. “I mean, I’m not trying to quibble words here, but obviously the first sets of weapons came out with really no adequate way of checking them.”
James Glanz reported from Baghdad, and Eric Schmitt from Washington. Mudhafer al-Husaini contributed reporting from Baghdad, and Iraqi employees of The New York Times from Ramadi, Kut, Karbala, Basra, Diyala and Salahuddin.

Similar Topics
Attacks In Iraq Continue To Decline
Billions In Oil Missing In Iraq, U.S. Study Finds
Commanders In Iraq See 'Surge' Into '08
Eight U.S., Four British Soldiers Die In Scattered Attacks In Iraq
Attacks In Iraq At Record High, Pentagon Says