The war's sixth year begins in Baghdad with rockets falling into the U.S.-protected Green Zone over the weekend, while the overall U.S. military death toll tops 4,000 after a roadside bombing claims more American lives.
Army Maj. Gen. Bob Scales (Ret.) tells Robert Siegel that the enemy in Iraq has evolved, even as U.S. forces have improved their defenses against irregular attackers operating anonymously in small units and employing suicide and roadside bombs.
He says they have built larger bombs, and found more clever ways of hiding explosives and detonating the devices.
As well, Iraqi insurgents often are launching their attacks from densely populated regions, "so even though the point of launch can be determined with great precision, the ability to shoot back is limited," Scales says.
"You simply can't load up artillery guns and throw rounds into a crowded neighborhood. So the enemy has time — while the U.S. forces are clearing the area, putting together a patrol, launching helicopters — to simply fade away into buildings and hide away in alleys."
But Scales says this does not mean that the Iraqis who live in these neighborhoods support or are intimidated into cooperating by the insurgents. He says the hit-and-run attackers usually drive in from miles away and are gone before the populous even knows they are there.
Ultimately, Scales says it is very difficult to respond to suicide bombers, in particular.
"There is so little you can do when you're facing an enemy who is enthusiastic about death. ... They want to create an impression among the Iraqis and Arabs in the region that U.S. efforts to build this period of tranquility [are] interrupted by these periodic spikes. And so the more dramatic they can make it, the more deaths that they can cause, that really plays to their ends," Scales says.