Iraq Violence Surges Again
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning.
Here's a reminder that Iraq is still a dangerous place. On Sunday the U.S. military announced that overall violence is down, and yesterday eight American soldiers were killed in a pair of attacks. That's the highest single-day death toll in months.
It is not the only recent incident of violence, and NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro has been tracking the story in Baghdad. Lourdes, what kind of attacks are taking place?
LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, the deadliest attack took place in Baghdad yesterday. Those five soldiers were killed in an area called Mansore(ph). It's an upscale neighborhood, mainly Sunni. The patrol was walking around in one of the shopping areas. It was apparently a regular afternoon scene now. People were shopping, traffic was normal.
Then a young man came up them and he detonated his explosives vest. Now, as you know, I've been out with U.S. soldiers a lot recently and there have been more and more of these dismounted patrols where the soldiers are interacting with the population, they're staying in one place longer, they're talking to people, they're allowing people to get close to them.
And in response to this, the insurgency here seems to be using more and more people bombs, if you will. We saw it again yesterday in Diallo Province when a woman came to talk to a tribal leader that was working with the Americans. She asked to speak to him and then she got close to him and she blew herself up.
So we're seeing more women being used, we're seeing more disabled people being used. Basically those who would not necessarily raise suspicion and the results can be deadly.
INSKEEP: And you mentioned five soldiers killed in that incident in Baghdad. Of course, a total of eight Americans killed for the day, and that is just one day. Can I ask what makes these attacks, other than the different tactics, worse than the normal Baghdad violence?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Quite simply what we saw yesterday and what we've been seeing is just more violence. We've seen steady indicators that violence is decreasing since the surge has sort of kicked into place. But for the first time in February that changed, and we saw civilian deaths going up for the first time.
Just yesterday there was an assassination of a doctor in Basra, a car bomb that killed a civilian in Baghdad, two rockets landing in the green zone, a car bomb in Iraqi Kurdistan in the largest hotel in Sulamania. And the big issue here is what is going to happen when you really feel the drawdown here.
Already 2,000 troops are being withdrawn. By the summer we'll see at least 20,000 fewer U.S. troops. That's a lot. It's basically reversing the surge.
INSKEEP: Is the U.S. Military Commander General David Petraeus indicating that he is comfortable going ahead with previously announced plans to let some troops come home at this time given the increase in violence that you're seeing in recent weeks.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, they're calibrating this I have to say day-by-day. And they're still saying that overall violence is down and that they're confident that they can begin the drawdown of troops. But what they have said - and they've made this very clear - is that that they want there to be a pause after these troops, these 20,000 to 25,000 troops have been withdrawn.
They don't want to continue the drawdown. They want to say, okay. Let's look at the situation, let's let the situation sort of sit for a while, let's see what the levels of violence are and then we can make a more accurate determination as to whether or not we can withdraw more troops or we're going to leave it at the level that it is at that point.
The other thing that you have to realize here is that there is a lot of security on the ground here. There are almost 100,000 Sunni tribal fighters, there are hundreds of thousands of Iraqi security forces, 200,000 Iraqi army, the same for the police. But still a lot of them are not really up to the task. And people in Baghdad, civilians, you know, regular people, are really looking very, very closely to see what is going to happen when the surge is essentially reversed over the next few months.
INSKEEP: NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro is in Baghdad. Lourdes, thanks very much.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: You're welcome.
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