Washington: A wave of car bombings that killed 172 people in Baghdad on 18April underscored the seeming ineffectiveness of the vaunted US “surge” force against Sunni extremists willing to inflict mass civilian casualties.
US commanders said sectarian killings have fallen sharply since additional US combat brigades and Iraqi security forces converged on the capital to head off an all-out civil war between Shiites and Sunnis.
But Sunni extremists made a mockery of beefed-up defenses around the capital with a string of car bombings, the worst of which killed 122 people in a busy market area.
“Any time someone is determined to kill innocent civilians, and kill themselves to do it, that’s a hard attack to stop,” said Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman.
Loren Thompson, a military analyst with the Lexington Institute, said the problem is more fundamental. For these attacks prove that the US military still doesn’t have a solution to the core problem in Iraq, which is a mass killing campaign by Sunni extremists.
Sunni extremists have used bombings to destabilize Iraq at pivotal momements of the four year US occupation, driving out the United Nations, foreign embassies and international aid organizations early on.
On February 22, 2006, the bombing of a revered Shiite mosque in Samarra set off the country’s worst eruption of sectarian violence since the US invasion. That prompted the deployment of increasing numbers of US troops to put a lid on the violence despite deepening disenchantment with the war at home.
There are currently 146,000 US troops in Iraq. Three more US combat brigades are on their way as part of a last ditch effort to salvage the faltering US mission. Admiral William Fallon, new commander of US forces in Middle East, told lawmakers, the surge in troops to Baghdad has reduced the number of sectarian murders.
The US Defense Department has spent billions of dollars to come up with ways to protect US troops from suicide/car/roadside bombings, with little to show for it.
The US military relies on intelligence to root out bomb-making factories and networks of bombers, but it is unclear how effective it has been in stopping bombings aimed at civilians.
Thompson said US forces do not seem to understand the enemy well enough to stop the attacks. “There is no evidence we understand how to stop it from occurring,” he said. “In some ways American presence may actually be making the situation worse, by preventing Shiite militias from dealing with Sunni attacks,” he said.