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Iraq’s Diyala Province One of Deadliest for Troops

Since November, dozens of U.S. service members have been killed in Diyala, making it one of Iraq's deadliest provinces. Iraqis have not escaped the violence either. Military analysts discuss the persistent insurgency.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Diyala has become one of the deadliest provinces in Iraq for U.S. troops. It is home to about 1.4 million people and is mostly a mix of Sunni and Shiites.

    The capital, Baquba, is about 35 miles northeast of Baghdad. And it was near there that the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was killed by U.S. forces last June.

    Since November, 56 U.S. servicemembers have been killed in Diyala. Iraqis have not escaped the violence, either. On Monday, a car bomb killed seven Iraqi policeman and wounded 13.

    The Washington Post reported today that the military is sending some 2,000 additional U.S. troops to Diyala to battle the insurgency. The military declined to give out the total number of U.S. troops serving in the province.

    For more on the violence and the situation in Diyala, we're joined by Frederick Kagan, a military historian, former West Point professor, and now resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think-tank. He visited Diyala province earlier this month.

    And former Army Captain Phillip Carter, he was an operations officer for a task force that advised Iraqi police in Baquba from October 2005 to September 2006.

    Phillip Carter, to you first. You spent a year there. Describe Diyala province to us. What does it look like? Who are the people who live there?

  • FORMER CAPT. PHILLIP CARTER, U.S. Army:

    Judy, we thought of Diyala as Little Iraq. It's a microcosm of the country, which has a mix of Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds in the north and the east.

    The geography of the province is diverse. It stretches from the fertile farmlands outside of Baghdad to the deserts along the Iranian border all the way up into mountains in Kurdistan.

    And it is a volatile province. It has a little bit of the problems of Baghdad. It touches on the Sunni triangle. And it also has many of the lines of communication leading from Iran into Baghdad, and so it is home to a number of the intrigues that involve Iran and Kurdistan, as well.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Fred Kagan, what would you add to that? How is it different, Diyala, from the rest of Iraq?

  • FREDERICK KAGAN, American Enterprise Institute:

    Well, the mix that you have there, I think the captain is absolutely right. It is a Little Iraq. And you have Kurdish infiltration in the north. You have a majority Sunni province. You also have provincial government and security forces that are dominated by Shia, because the Sunnis sat out the local elections. And so you have some tensions there.

    And because we have had relatively few forces in Diyala throughout 2006, there's a significant al-Qaida presence in Diyala, which has been causing a lot of problems. And then you've had a flow into Diyala of Sunnis who were displaced in Baghdad over the course of 2006, as well. So it's a very, very rough area, probably one of the toughest in Iraq right now.

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