By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service
April 16, 2009 - Though suicide bombings continue to be a threat, the security situation in Iraq continues to improve, a senior Pentagon spokesman said today. "[Insurgent attacks] still remain down, and commanders have certainly indicated that they've seen tremendous progress, but that does not mean we will be void of these spectacular suicide-type attacks," Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said.
Lethal attacks from suicide bombings in Anbar province, Kirkuk and Mosul claimed the lives of five soldiers and at least 20 Iraqis, while another 40 or more American and Iraqi troops have been wounded in the past week.
A person the Pentagon believes to be possibly associated with al-Qaida in Iraq infiltrated a U.S.-Iraqi base camp in Habaniyah yesterday, detonating himself and injuring a reported 26 American and Iraqi personnel.
On April 10, U.S. forces suffered their deadliest attack in more than a year when five soldiers were killed by a suicide truck bomb in Mosul. Today in Kirkuk, a suicide attack claimed the lives of a reported 11 Iraqis.
The attacks are significant, but "as much as [coalition forces] try to mitigate against those types of things, they're still very possible in [Iraq]," Whitman said.
Military leaders and Pentagon officials have said repeatedly that success in Iraq is reversible. Improved security has allowed the United States to transition much of the responsibilities to the Iraqis, they've said, but they've also emphasized that security in Iraq remains fragile.
However, even with the recent spike in large-scale attacks, violence levels still remain as low as they were in August 2003, which was the quietest month of the Iraq war. Since June 2007, attacks still are down 85 percent throughout the country, a U.S. military spokesman posted in Iraq wrote in an e-mail to American Forces Press Service today.
Officials have noted that most attacks by insurgents over the past year have targeted civilian and Iraqi security forces. Those reports continue to decline too, Army 1st Lt. John Brimley wrote in the e-mail.
The number of reported civilian deaths since June 2007 has decreased by 90 percent across the nation. In late 2006, it wasn't surprising for attacks to result in 1,500 civilian deaths in a single month. By mid-2007, more than 1,100 innocent deaths were recorded in a single month. But by 2008, civilian deaths were down to 300, and this year, insurgent attacks kill an average of 111 civilians each month, Brimley said.
Overall, U.S. forces are reporting a national average of 13 insurgent attacks a day and 150 "security incidents" -- such as discovering weapons or capturing suspected insurgents -- each week. A year ago, insurgents carried out more than 60 daily attacks, and more than 700 security incidents were reported.
U.S. commanders continue to praise the turnaround in Iraq and their new-found confidence in local security forces, but al-Qaida and other insurgent groups have shown they're still capable of carrying out large-scale, suicide attacks.
Whitman said the attacks show that al-Qaida and other insurgent groups in Iraq still have the ability to stage "spectacular and lethal attacks," but Iraq is still much more stable than it was two years ago.