‘L.A. Times’ Baghdad Chief: Surge Not Working

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By: E&P Staff

With anticipation building for next week’s “surge” report from General David Petraeus, major newspapers and news services have started weighing in with their own assessments. For the most part, they have been quite skeptical of significant advances. Making a major contribution today is a lengthy “dispiriting” report from Tina Susman, Baghdad bureau chief of the Los Angeles Times.

Here account opens: “The U.S. military buildup that was supposed to calm Baghdad and other trouble spots has failed to usher in national reconciliation, as the capital’s neighborhoods rupture even further along sectarian lines, violence shifts elsewhere and Iraq’s government remains mired in political infighting.

“In the coming days, U.S. military and government leaders will offer Congress their assessment of the 6-month-old plan’s results. But a review of statistics on death and displacement, political developments and the impressions of Iraqis who are living under the heightened military presence reaches a dispiriting conclusion.

“Despite the plan, which has brought an additional 28,500 U.S. troops to Iraq since February, none of the major legislation that Washington had expected the Iraqi parliament to pass into law has been approved.

“The number of Iraqis fleeing their homes has increased, not decreased, according to the United Nations’ International Organization for Migration and Iraq’s Ministry for Displacement and Migration.

“Military officials say sectarian killings in Baghdad are down more than 51% and attacks on civilians and security forces across Iraq have decreased. But this has not translated into a substantial drop in civilian deaths as insurgents take their lethal trade to more remote regions. Last month, as many as 400 people were killed in a bombing in a village near the Syrian border, the worst bombing since the war began in March 2003. In July, 150 people were reported killed in a village about 100 miles north of Baghdad.

“And in a sign that tamping down Sunni-Shiite violence is no guarantee of stability, a feud between rival Shiite Muslim militias has killed scores of Iraqis in recent months. Last week, at least 52 people died in militia clashes in the Shiite holy city of Karbala.

“At best, analysts, military officers and ordinary Iraqis portray the country as in a holding pattern, dependent on U.S. troops to keep the lid on violence.”

The U.S. Ambassador, Ryan Crocker, has been reduced to refering to reaching “mini-benchmarks” as opposed to the true benchmarks once promised.

Susman adds: “Privately, many troops say the military buildup should have been able to do far more by now than cut the number of attacks in some neighborhoods. Pouring troops into the capital is no doubt going to make some areas safer, said one Marine officer, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the upcoming assessment.”

The full story is at www.latimes.com.

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