BAQUBA, Iraq - The major US military
operation in Baquba city north of Baghdad has
ended, but it has left continuing suffering for
residents in its wake. The US military launched
Operation Arrowhead Ripper in Baquba, 50
kilometers northeast of Baghdad, on June 18.
Baquba is the capital city of Iraq's Diyala
The stated goal of the operation
was to eradicate al-Qaeda from the city and other
areas in the province. The region has seen some of
the highest number of attacks on US troops.
launching the operation, the
US military admitted that nearly 80% of al-Qaeda
militants had fled the area.
been looking for an end to raids and abductions by
criminal gangs and sectarian death squads, but the
US military operation brought no relief.
"People here feel afraid because the
coalition forces always push al-Qaeda out of the
cities, but unfortunately they return when the
troops retreat," resident Mohammed Hulail told
Inter Press Service (IPS). "So the coalition
forces can provide no solution."
city official, speaking on condition of anonymity,
told IPS that al-Qaeda militants had already
returned to parts of the city. "We are now sure
that Iraqi police and army cannot defeat al-Qaeda
who are well fortified in the streets and
Residents have learnt to fear
enemies on all sides. "People are the victims of
this war because they are in the middle point
between the American forces and the fighters of
al-Qaeda," Jabbar Ibrahim, a secondary school
teacher in the city, told IPS. "The fighters of
al-Qaeda came to control the city, but when the US
troops came to fight them, they ran away, leaving
civilians to face the shells the bombs."
Many residents complain of indiscriminate
arrests through the US forces' search for al-Qaeda
suspects. "Arrests are sometimes made wrongly;
simple people who have nothing to do with fighting
and violence were arrested, and those who were the
real fighters ran away," a resident who declined
to give his name told IPS.
Islamic Party has accused the multi-national
forces operating in the area of killing many
people in Baquba in the early weeks of the
operation. "The operations led by the US forces in
western Baquba led to the death of more than 350
people, most of whom are still under the rubble,"
the party said in a statement.
residents in this city of 300,000 say that
Operation Arrowhead Ripper has made living
conditions worse. "We spent 12 days without water,
electricity and food," Hamid Shaaban, a
51-year-old retired city official told IPS. And US
forces were of little help. "I have seven
children," said Shaaban. "I went to ask US troops
for food and water." All he got, he said, was some
bottled water. He was then sent away.
shortage of water hit the city at the worst time
of the year. "The temperature was between 45 and
51 degrees Celsius," an elderly woman said. "We
have had very long days, it has been terrible."
Most residents IPS spoke to said they
would leave if they could, but they either lacked
funds or simply did not know where to go. "We do
not have another place to go in order to leave
this miserable place," resident Kamil Abid told
IPS. "All places are the same, and we have no
money to start again."
The US military has
often detained people who have stayed home during
the attacks and searches. Several residents say a
decision to stay on was often seen as a gesture of
Now almost everyone seems fed up
with the violence and intimidation from all sides.
"What people want is security in order to get back
again to their jobs to earn their living," said
the owner of a local food store. "Providing this
is the responsibility of the coalition forces and
the Iraqi government."
that the US forces do not really want to solve the
problem. "The US government always tends to create
an enemy, and then fight him in order to show weak
governments, like this one in Iraq, that they
cannot do without the support of US power," said a
retired army officer.
ebbs for the 'surge' Meanwhile, Washington's
policy makers are growing dissatisfied with the
George W Bush administration's troop "surge" in
Iraq and a majority agrees that the world is
becoming more dangerous for the United States,
according to a poll released Monday, reports Eli
Clifton of IPS from Washington.
non-partisan poll, called The Terrorism Index and
released by the Center for American Progress and
Foreign Policy magazine, surveys more than 100
foreign-policy experts, including former
secretaries of state, top commanders in the US
military, senior intelligence professionals and
academics, to assess the effectiveness of how the
United States is fighting the "war on terror".
In this year's results, 91% of
participants said the world is becoming more
dangerous for the United States, while only 2%
said it was safer and 84% of poll participants
disagreed that the US is winning the "war on
terror". The ongoing war in Iraq appeared to be
the cause of the experts' pessimism, with 92% of
them saying the war was affecting US national
security negatively, up 5% from a year ago.
Opposition to the Bush administration's
handling of the war in Iraq was most noticeable in
the 53% of respondents who now say that the
"surge" of about 165,000 troops is having a
negative impact, up 22% from six months ago.
"What I take away from that is that the
last six months may have been the most defining
months in the 'war on terror'," Foreign Policy's
senior editor Michael Boyer told IPS.
to withdraw troops from Iraq brought mixed
reactions from the bipartisan group of experts,
with a majority - 68% - supporting a redeployment
of troops from Iraq in the next 18 months, while
most of the experts opposed an immediate
Perhaps surprisingly, slightly
more conservatives - 25% of conservative
respondents - called for an immediate withdrawal
than liberals or moderates. "It's rare to see
foreign policy experts in this sort of agreement
on such a politicized issue. The sentiment on the
surge is shared across party lines," said Boyer.
Despite claims from Bush administration
officials and presidential candidates that a
withdrawal from Iraq will lead to further
terrorist attacks in the United States, 88% of
experts polled agreed that a troop withdrawal from
Iraq would have no correlation or was unlikely to
lead to future terrorist attacks within the US.
"We have an administration that says we
need a victory in Iraq or suffer consequences at
home but experts say that's just not so," said
Boyer. "Foreign-policy experts really don't see a
correlation between being in Iraq or leaving and
terrorist attacks at home."
As well as
contradicting the Bush administration's
justification for continued troop deployments in
Iraq, the experts expressed concern with the
lasting legacy of the administration's Middle East
Fifty-eight percent of poll
respondents said that in 10 years' time,
Sunni-Shi'ite tensions will have increased; 35%
believe that Arab dictators will have been
discouraged from reforming; 5% believe that
al-Qaeda will be weaker; and only 3% believe Iraq
will be a "beacon of democracy" in the Middle
More than half of the experts
surveyed believe that the current US policy of
providing aid to Pakistan - which has dramatically
increased since the US invasion of Afghanistan -
is having a negative impact on national security.
Furthermore, 35% of those polled thought
that Pakistan is most likely to become the next
al-Qaeda stronghold, and 74% believed that
Pakistan is the country most likely to transfer
nuclear technology to terrorists in the next three
to five years.
Only 22% of respondents,
however, found Pakistan to be Washington's least
useful ally, while 34% of those polled picked
Russia as the ally that least serves US interests
- presumably a response to Russian President
Vladimir Putin's increasing role as a strongman.
"In terms of national security, the war in
Iraq and the 'war on terror', the foreign policy
communities agree that all three are on the wrong
track," said Boyer.
IPS correspondent in Iraq's Diyala province, works
in close collaboration with Dahr Jamail, IPS's
US-based specialist writer on Iraq who travels
extensively in the region.