Iraq Attacks Stayed Steady Despite Troop Increase
[While the White House's Goebbelsian organs of misinformation continue to advertise make-believe successes in Iraq, the numbers draw a different picture.pt]
Newly declassified data show that as additional American troops began streaming into Iraq in March and April, the number of attacks on civilians and security forces there stayed relatively steady or at most declined slightly, in the clearest indication yet that the troop increase could take months to have a widespread impact on security.
Even the suggestion of a slight decline could be misleading, since the figures are purely a measure of how many attacks have taken place, not the death toll of each one. American commanders have conceded that since the start of the troop increase, which the United States calls a “surge,” attacks in the form of car bombs with their high death tolls have risen.
The attack data are compiled by the Pentagon but were made public in a report released yesterday by the Government Accountability Office. It analyzed the effect of the attacks on the struggling American-financed reconstruction program in Iraq, especially the program’s failings in the electricity and oil sectors.
A draft version of the report, obtained by The New York Times last week, indicated that every day during much of the past four years, somewhere between 100,000 and 300,000 barrels of oil, valued at anywhere from $5 million to $15 million, had been unaccounted for. But the draft report did not contain the attack statistics.
When asked about the new data, Barham Salih, an Iraqi deputy prime minister, said in an interview that the troop increase was having a positive impact in specific neighborhoods in Baghdad, particularly in the Shiite-dominated eastern half of the city. But he said Iraqi intelligence had concluded that Al Qaeda was in effect surging at the same time in Iraq to counteract the American program, damping any immediate gains.
Mr. Salih also said that insurgents had to some extent fled Baghdad, where the increase is concentrated, to outlying areas like the northern cities of Mosul and Kirkuk, the Kurdish north and the ethnically mixed province of Diyala, north and west of Baghdad, where major attacks have taken place in recent weeks.
“Al Qaeda has adapted, first by pushing a surge of its own, and by escalation of its own attacks across Iraq,” Mr. Salih said. “It is a deliberate attempt by Al Qaeda, an escalation, to get us to change our tactics.”
Over all, the attack statistics, which the accountability office has been compiling since the early days of the conflict, paint a sobering picture of where the country is headed. The number of daily attacks remained low through 2003 and the early months of 2004, but then began a relentless climb even as the United States promoted what it saw as important political milestones in Iraq.
Those milestones included the transfer of the country to a sovereign Iraqi government, several elections and eventually the creation and ratification of a new Iraqi Constitution. Despite those developments, the statistics show, the number of attacks averaged 71 a day in January 2006, and rose to a record high of 176 a day in October 2006.
By February of this year the number had dipped to 164 a day. The troop increase, which is not expected to be fully in place until sometime this summer, began in earnest that month, with several American-led sweeps through Baghdad and plans for permanent new outposts in restive neighborhoods put into effect.
As troops continued to arrive, the statistics show, the early effect on countrywide attacks was at best marginal, although there does appear to have been a slight decrease. The daily attack figures for March and April, released yesterday for the first time, were 157 and 149, respectively.
“The improvement is too small to be meaningful, but it’s too soon to declare defeat,” said John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, a research group that closely follows the conflict.
Aside from the considerable human toll of the attacks, the report says, their impact on the reconstruction program has been devastating.
“Insurgents have destroyed key oil and electricity infrastructure, threatened workers, compromised the transport of materials, and hindered project completion and repairs by preventing access to work sites,” the report says.
In addition, it says, the looting and vandalism that American and Iraqi officials have vowed to stop has continued to destroy infrastructure that billions of dollars in American and Iraqi money have refurbished.
The report also contains the analysis of what appears to be billions of dollars of oil that is unaccounted for over the past four years. The report says smuggling, sabotage or colossal accounting errors could potentially account for the discrepancy.
A senior Iraqi official said yesterday that the Iraqi government believed the most likely explanation is a major smuggling effort by Shiite militias in the oil-rich south of Iraq.