New Pentagon report suggests some Iraq violence constitutes 'civil war'

The Associated Press
Published: March 14, 2007

WASHINGTON: The U.S. military said Wednesday for the first time, in a bleak new report, that some of the violence in Iraq can be described as constituting a civil war.

In a newly negative assessment of the war to date, a quarterly Pentagon report said that last October through December was the most violent three-month period since 2003. Attacks and casualties suffered by coalition and Iraqi forces and civilians were higher than any other similar time span, the report said.

Most of the data in the Pentagon's 42-page report refer to the period before President George W. Bush ordered an additional 21,500 troops and thousands of support personnel to Baghdad to deal with the escalating violence. The report cautions that it should be considered "a baseline from which to measure future progress."

Members of the Bush administration have been loath to say that the U.S. military is struggling to quell a civil war, and the report agreed that the term does not capture the complex situation there.

But it added, "Some elements of the situation in Iraq are properly descriptive of a 'civil war,' including the hardening of ethnosectarian identities and mobilization, the changing character of the violence and population displacements."

A similar assessment released by the U.S. intelligence community last month came to roughly the same conclusion.

The Pentagon's report is the latest in a series of quarterly updates put out by the Pentagon to measure security and stability in Iraq. In detailing the increase in violence, the report said 80 percent of the attacks from November through January were concentrated in four provinces — Baghdad, Anbar, Diyala and Salah ad Din — with Baghdad seeing a record 45 attacks per day. The other three provinces saw more than 70 attacks per day, during the same period.

The report reflected an average of more than 1,000 attacks per week, compared to nearly 1,000 per week in the last quarter, and about 800 per week during the May-to-August period. The reports provide bar charts but no exact numbers.

It also noted that while most of the attacks are directed against coalition forces, most casualties were Iraqi civilians.

On a positive note, the report said the Iraqi government also was acting to improve its economy and stabilize the political situation. It also found that two-thirds of the Iraqi people believe that conditions are worsening, and as many as 9,000 are fleeing the country each month.