Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Offensive in Iraq

I'm not quite sure what to make of the latest U.S. offensive in Iraq, begun under cover of night, with 10,000 troops. That's a lot of troops to commit to an offensive in this kind of conflict. I'll call some people who might be in a better position to know tomorrow, but it seems to be a deviation from the "surge" strategy -- a straight military-type offensive supported by helicopters rather than policing-cum-Iraqis and winning hearts and minds.

I'm thinking the U.S. commanders think there's a significant concentration of insurgents in the area north of Baghdad who can be taken out with a "normal" military operation. So far they say they've killed 22 of them. What usually happens in a guerrilla-insurgency campaign is that the insurgents are able to slip away when confronted with a large number of government troops and live to fight another day. Guerrillas generally avoid set-piece battles because they're aware they can seldom win them. But this might be an unusual situation. We should know more tomorrow and in the following days.

Unfortunately the offensive coincided with a truck bombing near a Shia mosque in Baghdad that killed 75 people -- mostly worshippers it seems -- and wounded at least 200. The death toll is likely to rise as they pull bodies out of the rubble.

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