Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Baghdad: The Noose Tightens

image credit: U.S. Army

[This is an assault bridge, a temporary structure that modern armies use to cross rivers. There may be more of them in use in Iraq soon.]

This McClatchy article explains the situation pretty well:

In at least the seventh attack on Iraqi bridges in the past two months, a bomb damaged a bridge over a tributary to the Tigris River on Monday, cutting off the most popular route from the northeastern part of Diyala province to Baghdad.

Insurgents hit another bridge in Iraq

Another day, another attack on a transportation choke point in Iraq. As Larry Johnson notes today, this is almost certainly part of a deliberate campaign:

The ongoing attacks on bridges in and around Baghdad creates significant risks and logistical obstacles for U.S. forces in Iraq. In my opinion these attacks are part of deliberate strategy to create ambush choke points, degrade the capability of U.S. Quick Reaction Forces, and enhance the ability of insurgent forces to cut the U.S. lines of communication.

The Bombed Bridges of Baghdad

Our military forces in Iraq almost certainly recognize this possibility. Yet the McClatchy article goes on to note:

The U.S. military had no immediate information on the bombing, spokesman Lt. Col. Chris Garver said. Garver said bridge bombings didn't greatly "impede the mobility of the military." But bridges are high-profile targets whose destruction affects the lives of civilians, he said.

"If there is a definite campaign against bridges this is an insurgency trying to destabilize the government," he said.

Insurgents hit another bridge in Iraq

We can argue about whether it's an "insurgency" or a "resistance movement" another time, but for now let's just say that Larry Johnson's theory is at least as plausible. There's another possibility as well, which is that the campaign is designed to enhance the power of local warlords or others with the power to control the remaining bridges. It could also be to further isolate different parts of the city from each other, a campaign we're helping by building walls around neighborhoods in Baghdad.

Whichever of these explanations is actually the case, it doesn't bode well for either the Iraqis who live in or near Baghdad or for our presence in the country. Both will become much more endangered as these transportation facilities are destroyed.

Anyone who lives near a river knows how important bridges can be. When they aren't operational, it's harder for people to go to work, and it's harder for supplies of all sorts to reach their destination. Traffic snarls and lost commerce result. Having this happen in the middle of a war also has tactical implications, as Johnson notes in his article. It's much easier to predict where convoys will pass, because fewer avenues exist. They're not just attacking bridges, either. Highway overpasses also appear to be a target.

Our resident geniuses in Congress should take note, preferably before they fold again on providing more funding for our presence in the country.

UPDATE: Taylor Marsh has pointed at an LA Times poll that says Congress' reputation is at its lowest point in a decade. Gee, go figure.

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