While the American and Iraqi troops for the so-called surge are nearly all in place, it’s far too early to judge the effect. Still, given America’s waning patience with the war and the bad circumstances that prevailed in Iraq when the surge began, optimism is hard to come by. Our latest chart of leading indicators, based on American and Iraqi government data and news reports, doesn’t brighten the picture much.
First, the good news. Overall levels of violence are down somewhat in Baghdad. Extrajudicial killings — largely reprisal assassinations carried out against Sunnis by Shiite militias — are about 50 percent below levels from the winter. In violent Anbar Province, security cooperation among sheiks, their followers, the Iraqi government and Coalition forces against Al Qaeda remains impressive.
A number of extremist militia members and Qaeda operatives have been killed and captured in the Baghdad area, with American and Iraqi forces conducting 6 to 12 raids per day. These attacks help explain the rising American death tolls of April and May, which are obviously not good news, but may offer hope of a somewhat calmer future.
Alas, bad news still dominates. Overall levels of violence remain very high by the standards of other countries suffering from civil conflicts, and also in comparison with the Iraq of 2003 through 2005. Bombings by Sunni insurgents and Qaeda terrorists remain prevalent enough that the current restraint being exercised by most Shiite militias will be difficult to sustain. Cities like Kirkuk and Mosul remain tinderboxes. The economy remains stagnant and utility performance abysmal.
And, perhaps worst of all, the Iraqi political system has failed to deliver any real progress on the core issues dividing Sunni from Shiite from Kurd, without which there will be no lasting peace.
|Category||May 2003||May 2004||May 2005||May 2006||May 2007|
|U.S. Troops in Iraq (in thousands)||150||138||138||132||150|
|Other Foreign Troops (in thousands)||23||24||23||20||12|
|U.S. Troop Deaths||37||80||79||69||123|
|U.S. Troop Deaths From Homemade Bombs (percent)||0||26||41||52||65|
|Iraqi Security Forces (in thousands)||0||136||168||266||349|
|Iraqi Security Force Fatalities||50||100||259||150||198|
|Monthly Attacks Against Coalition and Civilians||150||1,700||1,900||3,500||4,200|
|Iraqi Civilian Deaths||500||1,025||1,000||2,670||2,750|
|New Iraqi Civilian Displaced by Violence (in thousands)||10||20||30||100||80|
|Multiple Fatality Bombings||0||9||36||56||42|
|Oil Production (in millions of barrels per day; prewar: up to 2.5)||0.3||1.9||2.1||2.1||2.0|
|Household Fuel Supply (as percentage of estimated need)||10||73||93||82||56|
|Electricity Production (average megawatts; prewar: 4,000)||500||3,900||3,700||3,900||3,700|
|Unemployment Rate (percent)||60||38||34||33||33|
|Telephone Subscribers (in millions; prewar: 0.8)||0.3||1.2||3.5||7.5||10.0|
|Annual Gross Domestic Product Growth Rate (percent)||0||40||4||4||4|
|Iraqis Saying Country is Headed in Right Direction (percent)||70||51||55||39||36|
View the Op-Chart
(graphic by Amy Unikewicz)
The objective of this kind of [safe zones] project may be described as fundamentally humanitarian, but the reality is that any number of parties, starting with the Assad regime and the Islamic State, are going to see it as a threat, and that’s going to make it a target instead of a safe place.
No vetting system is perfect, but if you look at those who have been arrested for suspicions of being linked to the Islamic State, for example, the vast majority have been American citizens.