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Mar 19th, 2009

6 Years Later, Iraq Better but Future Shaky

NBC News

By Robert H. Reid

March 18, 2009


BAGHDAD — Six years after the U.S. invaded Iraq, the end of America’s costly mission is in sight, but the future of this tortured country is much less clear. With violence down sharply, most Iraqis feel more secure than at nearly any time since the war began March 20, 2003 — March 19 in the United States.

But violence still continues at levels that most other countries would find alarming. Last week, suicide bombers killed a total of 60 people in two separate attacks in the Baghdad area, and an American soldier was fatally injured Monday on a combat mission in the capital.

Fighting still rages in Mosul and other areas of the mostly Sunni north. Competition for power and resources among rival religious and ethnic groups is gearing up, even as the U.S. military’s role winds down.

Both the Sunni and Shiite communities face internal power struggles that are likely to intensify ahead of national elections late this year. Sunni-Shiite slaughter has abated, but genuine reconciliation remains elusive.

“If Iraqi leaders don’t reconcile and work together, the situation will deteriorate,” veteran Kurdish lawmaker Mahmoud Othman said. “There is no harmony among Iraqi leaders. Their work depends on their mood.”

At the same time, U.S. combat troops are due to leave by September 2010, with all American soldiers gone by the end of the following year.

In the final stage of the war, America’s challenge will be to prevent ethnic and sectarian competition from exploding into violence on the scale that plunged the nation to the brink of all-out civil war two years ago. …

The war was launched to deny Saddam weapons of mass destruction and when events proved he had none, the goal shifted — to establish a Western-style democracy in the heart of the Middle East. That goal was only partially achieved.

Now, the U.S. hopes that it can leave without the country disintegrating into chaos. The Americans hope Iraq will be strong enough to fend off interference by neighboring countries — notably Iran — and protect itself from a resurgent al-Qaida. …

Many Iraqis fear that the relative calm simply means threat groups are lying low until the Americans leave.

“Iraq will face difficult economic situations for long time. … The political process is still at a crossroads,” Iraq’s Shiite vice president, Adel Abdul-Mahdi, said last week. “The war is not over but it has just begun.”


Remembering ‘Shock and Awe’ and ‘Mission Accomplished’


Conflict in Iraq video

Killer Blue: Baptized by Fire (Part 2: Who are we fighting?) — Go in-depth with 30 U.S. Army soldiers as they experience love and loss while serving in Iraq — from friends lost on the battlefield to babies born at home. Multimedia by the Associated Press. (03:43)


Top Sunni Arab Official Assassinated in Baghdad

March 19, 2009

BAGHDAD — Militants killed a senior member of Iraq’s main Sunni Arab party, the Iraqi Islamic Party (IIP), with a bomb planted under his car in Baghdad, the party said on Thursday.

Faysal Abdullah al-Samarai was assassinated as he drove through the predominantly Sunni Arab district of Adhamiya, northern Baghdad, late on Wednesday. He had been attending a celebration of the birthday of the Prophet Mohammad. Samarai was an IIP deputy for a region covering half of Baghdad. …

At least one al Qaeda-linked Sunni Islamist group in Iraq has called for attacks on moderate Sunni politicians, an apparent attempt to end reconciliation efforts between Iraq’s majority Shi’ites, minority Sunnis and other groups. …

Politicians are common targets for assassination in Iraq, alongside doctors, academics, police and the military.


U.S. Military Deaths in Iraq

As of Thursday, March 19, 2009, at least 4,259 members of the U.S. military had died in the Iraq war since it began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

Latest identification:

Army Spc. Gary L. Moore, 25, Del City, Okla., died March 16, 2009 in Baghdad after an explosive device struck his vehicle. He was assigned to the 978th Military Police Company, 93rd Military Police Battalion, Fort Bliss, Texas.


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U.S. Readies Civilian ‘Surge’ in Afghanistan

Image: U.S. Marines on operations in southwest Afghanistan
John Moore / Getty Images

March 18, 2009

WASHINGTON — Top aides to President Barack Obama are recommending that the United States combine a boost in military deployments with a steep increase in civilian experts to combat a growing insurgency in Afghanistan, senior U.S. officials said Wednesday.

Several hundred civilians from various U.S. government agencies — from agronomists to economists and legal experts — will be deployed to Afghanistan to reinforce the nonmilitary component in Kabul and the existing provincial reconstruction teams in the countryside, officials said.

A soon-to-be-concluded review of Afghanistan policy that Obama is expected to act on and announce next week builds on steps first endorsed by the Bush administration last year, the officials said. …

Officials said counterinsurgency, reconstruction and development in Afghanistan would be top priorities. …

Obama has committed 17,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan to break a stalemate against the Taliban and other insurgents. The president’s top military advisers say the U.S. is not winning the fight there.

Many of the broad policy themes in the Afghanistan policy review already are well known, including the emphasis on nonmilitary contributions and the adaptation of successful counterinsurgency tactics used in the Iraq war. …


Security Developments in Iraq

Following are security developments in Iraq on Thursday, March 19, 2009, as reported by Reuters.

BASRA – The decayed remains of at least three bodies were found in a grave near Basra, 260 miles southeast of Baghdad, Mehdi al-Tamimi, the head of the city’s human rights office, said.

MOSUL – Police found the body of a man shot in the head and chest in a town near Mosul, 240 miles north of Baghdad, police said.

MOSUL – Gunmen killed the mayor of a village east of Mosul, police said.

BAGHDAD – Gunmen shot and wounded two Interior Ministry personnel during an attack on their vehicle in central Baghdad, on Wednesday, police said.

BAGHDAD – A bomb attached to a car wounded a police officer in Baghdad’s northeastern neighborhood of al-Shaab on Wednesday, police said.

KIRKUK – Gunmen killed a man and his wife when they stormed their house just south of Kirkuk, 155 miles, north of Baghdad, on Wednesday, police said.

MOSUL – Gunmen killed a civilian in a drive-by shooting south of Mosul on Wednesday, police said.

MOSUL – A roadside bomb wounded two civilians when it struck a U.S. patrol in eastern Mosul on Wednesday, police said. The patrol escaped unharmed.

MOSUL – Gunmen shot and wounded a government employee in a drive-by shooting in southern Mosul on Wednesday, police said.

Following are security developments in Iraq on Wednesday, March 18, 2009, as reported by Reuters.

SAADIYA – A roadside bomb killed a man and his wife when it blew up their car in the town of Saadiya, 90 miles northeast of Baghdad, police said.

MOSUL – A suicide car bomber attacked a police patrol, killing one policeman and seriously wounding two others in eastern Mosul, 240 miles north of Baghdad, police said.

KIRKUK – A bomb wounded three people in central Kirkuk, 155 miles north of Baghdad, police said.

MOSUL – Gunmen shot dead a soldier at an army checkpoint in eastern Mosul, 240 miles north of Baghdad, police said.


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2 Responses to “Iraq — Six Years After”
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