By CNJ staff
The two events are not directly related, yet in a way they are. A Dec. 21 attack at a U.S. military base in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul killed 22 people, including more than a dozen Americans. The next day newspapers reported that for the first time a major U.S. contractor, Contrack International Inc., was pulling out of a $325 million contract to rebuild parts of Iraq’s transportation system.
The company cited skyrocketing security costs. “We reached a point where our costs were getting to be prohibitive,” Kerim Camel-Toueg, Contrack’s president, told reporters. “We felt we were not serving the government, and that the dollars were not being spent smartly.”
The company also found that its workers were increasingly coming under fire, quite literally, from small-arms and mortar attacks at construction sites. Earlier this year an Egyptian bus driver who worked for the firm was kidnapped. His body was dumped outside a construction site 12 days later with five bullet holes in the head.
Contrack decided to withdraw from Iraq before the attack at Mosul. But the attack highlighted similar concerns, about which military officials are worrying with increasing intensity.
It is believed the explosion was caused by a suicide bomber who had worked at the base for two months and provided increasingly detailed information to insurgents. Insurgents throughout Iraq are becoming increasingly sophisticated and sharpening their tactics, aiming attacks at the vulnerable points where the maximum number of potential casualties are likely to be.
No doubt the brutal attacks of the last couple of weeks reflect in part a decision to step up violence and intimidation in advance of the elections scheduled for Jan. 30. But they also reflect the insurgents’ increasingly sophisticated knowledge of how the U.S. military operates and where its vulnerabilities are. That knowledge will not disappear once the election is over; in fact, it will probably increase.
Some experts say the intensified violence in Iraq reflects an enemy whose ranks are thinning and is desperate to disrupt the elections as its only hope. We pray that is true. But however long it takes, the situation in Iraq is likely to get worse before it gets better.