5 US Soldiers killed in Iraq

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: I'm Marco Werman, this is The World. Iraq has been mostly absent from U.S. headlines recently but that changed today after the Pentagon announced that five American soldiers were killed in an attack in Central Iraq. It was the highest death toll for a single incident involving U.S. troops in Iraq over the past two years. The attack also underscores just how dangerous the country remains, even as American forces prepare to withdraw from Iraq by the end of the year. Reporter Jane Arraf is in Baghdad. Jane, a violent day in Iraq not just for American soldiers but for many others as well, what can you tell me about the attack on U.S. soldiers as well as the other attacks today in Iraq?

Jane Arraf: Well the attack on the soldiers was a rocket attack on what appears to be a joint base in Eastern Baghdad. And although American soldiers are off the streets there are still more than 47000 of them. And a lot of those people are living on Iraqi bases. Now rockets and motors have been the backdrop for the past few years but they generally don't really hit very much. This one seems to have been remarkably accurate. And U.S. officials in fact have been saying that motor teams have been better trained, they point the finger at Iran. Nobody's taking responsibility for this one yet but it does seem to follow a pattern.

Werman: And what about the other attacks today in Iraq. Are they linked to this attack on the U.S. soldiers?

Arraf: They're not and that's really the thing I'm trying to disentangle, who's responsible for all these attacks and there are still dozens every week. The other attack today, the other big one because there were at least four, was in Tigris. And that's a place where there was a huge attack just three days ago on Friday. There was an attack on the mosque and then a hospital where victims were taken. Today there was a suicide car bomb near the same location, outside the gates of what used to be Saddam Hussein's former palaces. At least twelve people were killed in that and most of them happened to be security forces, Iraqi security forces. And that again is another main target of insurgents these days.

Werman: Are you saying essentially that the attack against the American troops was atypical but these other attacks were kind of typical for these times in Iraq?

Arraf: Pretty much. There've been a variety of different kinds of attacks, some most chilling to Iraqi's are the assassinations where people actually come to your home or put a bomb under your car. But these two really follow a pattern of targeting Americans, American service people and targeting Iraqi security forces, either police or the army. With the Americans it's generally thought to be an attempt to show that they're actually driving out U.S. forces. They are due to leave in just a little over six months and the thought is that if they can attack them, they can actually say that they forced the U.S. out of Iraq.

Werman: I'm just wondering if statistics show that violence is trending up in Iraq. Is that the case right now?

Arraf: It has been a very violent last few months and casualties have been up. It was sort of expected simply because there's a lot of political turmoil. There is an increasingly shaky government. Many people feel there are a lot of scores to be settled. And even more worrying probably is that many people feel that the sectarian violence that they thought was buried is coming back. A lot of these assassinations we're seeing do seem to be sectarian based. That really has struck fear into the hearts of a lot of people.

Werman: You suggest that perhaps some kind of propaganda angled to this attack on U.S. troops that, if whoever perpetrated it can do this they can say well, ââ?¬Ë?we're actually responsible for getting the U.S. troops out, we've won'. The fact that the U.S. is planning to withdraw all its troops by the end of this year, is that in enough itself having a destabilizing effect on Iraq right now?

Arraf: I think it is. The thing about Iraq is there are a lot of different Iraq's at the moment; it's not really one cohesive country by any means. If you're in the North the Kurds believe that they owe pretty much their existence in some sense to the Americans and their efforts. And they're really troubled by the thought of Americans leaving. If you come here to Baghdad, political officials, a lot of them are concerned as well that U.S. troops are leaving but they can't really say that out loud. And then there's the sutterist who refuse to even talk to U.S. officials, their main goal is to get the United States out of here. So it's a very complicated, very fluid situation but no one's quite closed the door yet on some U.S. troops staying past next year.

Werman: Reporter Jane Arraf in Baghdad. Thanks a lot.

Arraf: Thank you.