I attended my first press briefing this afternoon (pictures are posted here. The briefings are conducted by Daniel Senor on behalf of the CPA (Coalition Provisional Authority, or the civilian side), and General Kimmitt on behalf of CJTF-7 (Consolidated Joint Task Force 7, or the military side). The briefing began with a by the numbers look at operations, as well as something like an extended police blotter, specifying the attacks for the previous day. While far too many numbers were bandied about, a few are of interest. There are currently an average of 21 attacks against coalition forces per day; 4 attacks against Iraqi forces; and 3 attacks against Iraqi civilians. Yesterday alone there were 561 patrols conducted in Baghdad.
While there were a number of standard IED-style attacks, there were also a couple of attacks worth noting. In one, soldiers were fired upon by individuals who appeared to be wearing Iranian border guard uniforms. While CTJF-7 is investigating, they are not treating this as a special case.
Following up on my posting from yesterday about the Americans and their translator apparently killed by men carrying Iraqi police IDs, the briefing today made clear that based on the recreation, this was a "run and gun"--that is, the attackers were not at a makeshift checkpoint, but drove a car by the victims, who they shot at and ultimately ran off the road. An on the street source suggests that the Fern Holland, a 33-year-old attorney who was in country working on women’s rights, may have been driving the vehicle. While Iraq is more progressive than some middle-eastern countries, there are still many who oppose women driving, and this (although highly speculative) may have contributed to the vehicle being targetted.
There was also a stabbing in the Green Zone, which garnered a fair number of questions. A soldier was stabbed on his way back to his trailer. He sustained stab wounds to the torso, neck, and head, but lived. It was unclear whether the attacker was American or Iraqi. Of course, it says something about the general level of security that this was big news. That is, attacks within the Green Zone are relatively unheard of.
Dan Senor, who Bill Kristol speaks quite highly of, gave something of an overview of the attacks: "The attacks are much more organized. They are much more political." He summed up that they are terrorist attacks. He noted that experts are predicting an escalation in attacks as the June 30th change in control approaches, because after that date the pretext of the attacks (getting the Americans out) will have evaporated.
General Kimmitt concluded with some very sound thoughts. Following a series of questions about the balance of liberty and security, he noted the sacrifice of the soldiers: "The soldiers did not die for fortune. They did not die for oil. They did not die for land." Rather, they died to give Iraq something it has never had--a free and democratic regime. Huzzah and pass the ammo.
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