String of Bombs in Iraq Highlight Security Challenges

While Iraq has made improvements, attacks continue and many political leaders have yet to reach reconciliation among their diverse factions.

Suicide bombers in Tal Afar, a city about 260 miles northwest of Baghdad, struck Thursday morning and injured 70, the Associated Press reported. According to Reuters, two attacks occurred, one that detonated in the historic center of the town and a second that followed as people responded to the first.

The New York Times reported that the bombings bore signs of a group affiliated with Al-Qaida in Mesopotamia, the Islamic State of Iraq. On Wednesday, the leader of Islamic State of Iraq, called for Sunnis to fight against Shiites and the Americans in Iraq.

The Nineveh province where Tal Afar is located is home to a large community of Turkmen Sunnis with a minority of Shiites living near where the bomb exploded. Insurgent groups like Al-Qaida are believed to be working to stoke ethnic divisions between Sunnis, Kurds and other groups.

“There are many parties trying to incite chaos following the withdrawal of U.S troops … It is not in their interest to see stability and security” said Atheel al-Nujaifi, a Sunni Arab who became governor of Nineveh earlier this year, according to Reuters.

There are near-daily reports of attacks in Nineveh’s capitol city of Mosul, including a car bomb in the Turkmen area on Wednesday that left 19 dead, CNN reported.

Mosul is a key dividing line between the Shiite Arab-led government in Baghdad and Kurds, who want to extend their semi-autonomous northern region and take greater control of oil resources.

“Military operations in Mosul have not been successful. Iraqi forces can’t even get to Arab quarters of western Mosul, while Kurds control the northern parts,” Adel al-Azzawi, a retired military officer and security analyst, told the AP.

In Baghdad, two bombs exploded about 100 meters apart within a minute of each other near a market in Sadr City, a Shiite district. In central Baghdad, another roadside bomb, this one targeting the convoy of Iraq Central Bank Gov. Sinan al-Shibibi, killed one civilian and wounded five, according to the AP.

Reuters reported other attacks flaring around Baghdad on Thursday.

U.S. combat forces withdrew from Iraqi cities at the end of June as part of an agreement signed between the two countries to withdraw from Iraq by the end of 2011. The Iraqi police and military were disbanded by the U.S. in 2003 and are being rebuilt under the direction and advisement of American forces.

Now that U.S. troops are pulling back in many areas, some have questioned the readiness of the Iraqi forces.

In a July 1 interview with the NewsHour, Gen. Ray Odierno, head of U.S. forces in Iraq, said that Iraqi security forces are continuing to make progress.

“[W]e believe they continue to make progress. We think we need to be with them for a couple more years, as is outlined in the security agreement, and we think, as we continue to move forward, they will continue to improve, and they’ll be able to do what we think is necessary,” he said.