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Saturday, September 23, 2006

The coming end of the Iraq War

Iraq engulfed by tide of violence
By John Simpson
World affairs editor, BBC News

Manfred Nowak, the UN's chief anti-torture expert, captured the headlines round the world when he suggested that torture could be worse in Iraq now than it was under Saddam Hussein.

Torture is indeed at appalling levels in Iraq. Everyone, it seems, from the Iraqi forces to the militias to the anti-US insurgents, now routinely use torture on the people they kill.

Each day, bodies are found with appalling injuries, particularly in Baghdad.

At the Baghdad mortuary, I was told that more bodies now showed signs of torture than of a clean death.

But new figures show that the picture is worse in other ways.

The number of violent deaths for July and August reached a total of 6,600 - 13% higher than the figure for the previous two-month figure.

'Too late'

They come at a time when 147,000 American soldiers are deployed in Iraq, the majority of them in the area around Baghdad. In recent months, reinforcements have been brought in to try to curb the violence.

The figures seem to indicate clearly that the US forces simply do not have the answer to the basic problem. The same applies to the British forces in Basra and the south, where the situation is also deteriorating.

Some 147,000 soldiers may seem a large number, and it is more than the US Department of Defense had been hoping to deploy in Iraq by now.

But the overwhelming majority of them are not out on the streets, stopping the bombings and kidnappings and murders.

The total number of fighting soldiers in the American force is probably about 18,000 - quite a small number, given the area they have to cover and the size of the problem.

Even so, more troops does not seem to be the solution. It is probably too late now to introduce different tactics, but in policing hostile towns and cities there is no effective alternative to the foot patrol.

A well-trained platoon can control quite a large area, making it hard for their opponents to gather together and carry out attacks. Of course, armoured vehicles can cover more ground, but as soon as they have passed, the insurgents can come out of hiding again.

The Americans have never put enough foot patrols in the streets, and they long ago lost control of many towns and cities as a result.

The Iranians know this. It will guide their strategy for the next month or two. Americans like to pretend that we control our fate, but we don't. It's an arrogance of good fortune. But our stay in Iraq is controlled by other people and they will tire of us.

posted by Steve @ 12:16:00 AM

12:16:00 AM

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