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Report Says Attacks by Insurgents In Iraq Increased Since Invasion

By James Glanz
THE NEW YORK TIMES


WASHINGTON

Sweeping statistics on insurgent violence in Iraq that were declassified for a Senate hearing on Wednesday appear to portray a rebellion whose ability to mount attacks has steadily grown in the nearly three years since the invasion.

The statistics were included in a report written by Joseph A. Christoff, director of international affairs and trade at the Government Accountability Office, who testified before the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee during a hearing on Iraq stabilization and reconstruction.

The U.S. military declassified the statistics so he could present them to the hearing in his report, Christoff said in an interview. The figures cover attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces and civilians.

The curve traced out by the figures between June 2003 and December 2005 shows a number of fluctuations, including several large spikes in insurgent activity — one as recently as October of last year.

But while U.S. and Iraqi officials have often pointed to the downward edges of those fluctuations as evidence that the steam was going out of the insurgency, the numbers over all seem to tell a different story, Christoff said. “It’s not going down,” he said. “There are peaks and valleys, but if you look at every peak, it’s higher than the peak before.”

Officials have recently noted that the numbers of attacks in the final two months of last year dropped after an October peak, which occurred around both Ramadan and a referendum on Iraq’s constitution. But Christoff’s chart shows that the number of attacks in December, nearly 2,500, was almost 250 percent higher than the number in March 2004.

But the trend line began even before March 2004, when the number of attacks was already nearly double what it had been in July or August 2003. Christoff’s paper cites a senior U.S. military officer saying that “attack levels ebb and flow as the various insurgent groups — almost all of which are an intrinsic part of Iraq’s population — re-arm and attack again.”

Attacks against Iraqi security forces have grown faster than the overall count; by December 2005 they had grown more than 300 percent since March 2004. Of course, as more Iraqis are trained and put into the field, more of them are targets.