The U.S. military reported Monday that mortar and rocket attacks in Iraq have fallen to the lowest level in nearly two years. A journalist in Baghdad assesses the reduction in violence.
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Damien Cave, welcome back.
We are hearing that mortar and rocket attacks in Baghdad are on the decline. How do we know that? And if it's true, why?
DAMIEN CAVE, New York Times:
The Americans attribute the decline in the mortar attacks to a number of factors, including doing a better job of finding where these attacks are coming from, but also a larger change in the security situation, where the Sunni side has basically agreed to work with the Americans and turn against al-Qaida. And that's minimized the demand for Shiite reprisals from the militias. So, at this point, it's just another sign of what appears to be a calm, or at least a lull.
Now, help me out with this. We have also been hearing recently that there were record numbers of troops who died this year in Iraq, but these measurements seem to show that going down, as well. Is it just a different standard of measurement that we're using?
Well, it's just a different time period. I mean, earlier this year, American troops were involved in a large, very, very heavy operational tempo. They were out and going into areas that were dangerous that they hadn't been in before, and they were finding a lot of resistance.
At this point, a lot of those areas have either been controlled or the violence has moved to other areas. And so there's a little bit less activity around the country, and the degree of activity is smaller. That's one major factor, in terms of American deaths.
But also, you know, as I said, there have been some changes in terms of just the strategy on the Sunni side, which is generally the side that's blamed for large, dramatic attacks, like car bombs and many of the attacks on American troops.
So, you know, right now what you have is some of the results of a year of effort, or at least nearly a year of effort. And the question that everyone is trying to figure out is, is this temporary or is it permanent? And that's something that, you know, we may not know for a while.