In the aftermath of the death of nine U.S. soldiers in a single strike on Monday, Time's Mark Kukis said in an article entitled "Is the Surge Backfiring?" that the new American approach of moving American forces "living full time in deadly areas," namely "small combat outposts and patrol bases," is putting them in places where "the sense of vulnerability . . . is all too palpable."[1]  --  The attack near Baquba that killed so many was "what U.S. soldiers call a complex attack, one involving elaborate planning to maximize casualties.  Initial assessments suggest that first a suicide car bomber rammed a vehicle into the gates of a small U.S. patrol base outside Baquba in the same area where single car bomber attacked a patrol base last month.  A second suicide car bomber apparently followed the first in yesterday's attack, however.  And at the same time insurgents fired small arms and rocket propelled grenades, according to soldiers from the 82nd Airborne.  In the end, the patrol base was all or mostly destroyed, with several soldiers dead beneath the rubble."  --  The surge has also weakened the Iraqi government.*  -- USA Today reported Wednesday that "A broad range of prominent Iraqi lawmakers say they have lost confidence in Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's ability to reconcile the country's warring factions.  A leading Kurdish lawmaker said al-Maliki should resign."[2] ...


1.

World

IS THE SURGE BACKFIRING?
By Mark Kukis

Time
April 24, 2007

http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1614091,00.html

[PHOTO CAPTION: U.S. soldiers search for weapons caches and insurgents in Old Baquba, northeast of Baghdad, April, 2007.]

You never get much sleep at a patrol base at night. In Ramadi, where Marines man several combat outposts amid the inner city, darkness often brings fear as Iraqi security forces come and go, leaving some Marines wondering whether they are among friends or enemies. In Ghazaliya, a violent neighborhood in western Baghdad with similar combat outposts, nearby gunfire cracks through the inky blackness outside seemingly every time you drift off. And in Diyala Province, where nine U.S. soldiers died Monday, troops stand watch on rooftops overlooking stretches of palm groves where they know insurgents dwell, waiting for the right moment to strike.

Increasingly across Iraq, U.S. forces are leaving the comfort and safety of their fortified mega-bases and establishing small combat outposts and patrol bases like the one insurgents struck outside Baquba that left 20 soldiers wounded as well. Some patrol bases are well protected with blast walls and large numbers of troops. Others are little more than abandoned houses that a few platoons circle with Humvees while hunkering down inside. As a reporter frequently embedded with U.S. forces, I've visited many such patrol bases, and the sense of vulnerability at them is all too palpable. The paratroopers tasked with controlling the volatile territory on the outskirts of Baquba knew they would face attacks from insurgents in the area as they stepped up their presence by manning such patrol bases. But they saw little choice, since the ongoing surge strategy calls for U.S. forces to abandon the old notion of return-to-base patrols in favor of living full time in deadly areas.

Word of yesterday's deadly assault in eastern Diyala Province spread quickly among U.S. troops as far away as the western city of Tikrit, where soldiers with the 82nd Airborne kept a close watch on reports of their comrades sent to the Baqubah area to deal with rising violence there. The strike was what U.S. soldiers call a complex attack, one involving elaborate planning to maximize casualties. Initial assessments suggest that first a suicide car bomber rammed a vehicle into the gates of a small U.S. patrol base outside Baquba in the same area where single car bomber attacked a patrol base last month. A second suicide car bomber apparently followed the first in yesterday's attack, however. And at the same time insurgents fired small arms and rocket propelled grenades, according to soldiers from the 82nd Airborne. In the end, the patrol base was all or mostly destroyed, with several soldiers dead beneath the rubble.

At least one other U.S. patrol base remains in the same area of the Diyala River valley as American troops struggle against insurgents who appear to be increasingly bent on turning the territory around Baquba into the most deadly front of the war in Iraq for U.S. forces. It remains to be seen whether the dozens of other combat outposts popping up around Iraq amid the surge will come to face similar attacks aimed at sending U.S. troops back into heavily fortified compounds and, in the hopes of insurgents, ultimately home to the United States in defeat.

2.

AL-MALIKI SUPPORT ERODING IN IRAQ
By Rick Jervis

** Officials doubt he can unite factions **

http://www.usatoday.com/printedition/news/20070424/1a_lede24_dom.art.htm

BAGHDAD -- A broad range of prominent Iraqi lawmakers say they have lost confidence in Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's ability to reconcile the country's warring factions. A leading Kurdish lawmaker said al-Maliki should resign.

Legislators from several parties told USA TODAY that al-Maliki lacks the support in parliament to push through laws, such as a plan to distribute oil revenues, that could reduce tensions between Sunnis and Shiites. Iraq's parliament has failed to pass major legislation since a U.S.-led security plan began on Feb. 14.

"He is a weak prime minister," said Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish legislator who supported al-Maliki until recently. "This government hasn't delivered and is not capable of doing the job. They should resign."

The loss of support came as Democrats agreed Monday on legislation that would force U.S. troops to begin leaving Iraq by Oct. 1. President Bush, who said he would veto the bill, has argued that Iraq's government needs more time to calm sectarian violence.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in Baghdad last week that the U.S. military commitment is not "open ended" and will be re-evaluated in late summer based in part on whether parliament has made progress. Al-Maliki seems unable to broker deals among the fractious alliance of Kurds and Shiites who supported his appointment last May, said Qasim Dawood, a member of al-Maliki's coalition.

"The present government is not competent," said Dawood, a Shiite legislator. "It's more or less paralyzed, inactive. I doubt very much that this government can continue in power much longer."

A political adviser to al-Maliki, whose term ends in 2010, said that the prime minister has no power to pass laws by himself. "We can only ask, push, the (parliament) to approve," Sadiq al-Rikabi said.

Al-Rikabi said there is no viable alternative to al-Maliki as prime minister. "Suppose he resigns," al-Rikabi said. "Then what is the solution?"

The Bush administration "has confidence in Prime Minister Maliki," said Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for the National Security Council.

Pending constitutional amendments on issues such as tax revenue sharing have stalled, said Ayad al-Samarrai, deputy chairman of the Iraqi Islamic Party, a Sunni group. He said al-Maliki's poor reputation among Sunnis was partly to blame. "We don't see any progress" on sectarian reconciliation, al-Samarrai said.

Six Cabinet ministers loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr, the anti-American Shiite cleric whose support was crucial in naming al-Maliki as prime minister, resigned this month.

Al-Maliki "must do something to make this government stronger," said Bahaa al-Araji, a lawmaker loyal to al-Sadr. "If not, this government will expire within a few weeks."