Satellite imagery casts doubt on US army’’s 2007 surge success in Iraq

September 20th, 2008 - 3:13 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, September 20 (ANI): A team of UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) geographers has uncovered fresh evidence from satellite imagery that last year’’s U.S. troop surge in Iraq may not have been as effective at improving security as some U.S. officials have maintained.
The effectiveness of the February 2007 deployment of 30,000 additional U.S. troops has been a subject of debate.
In a report to Congress in September of that year, General David Petraeus claimed that “the military objectives of the surge are, in large measure, being met.”
However, a report the same month by an independent military commission headed by retired U.S. General James Jones attributed the decrease in violence to areas being overrun by either Shiites or Sunnis.
Night light in neighborhoods populated primarily by embattled Sunni residents declined dramatically just before the February 2007 surge and never returned, suggesting that ethnic cleansing by rival Shiites may have been largely responsible for the decrease in violence for which the U.S. military has claimed credit.
“Essentially, our interpretation is that violence has declined in Baghdad because of intercommunal violence that reached a climax as the surge was beginning,” said lead author John Agnew, a UCLA professor of geography and authority on ethnic conflict.
“By the launch of the surge, many of the targets of conflict had either been killed or fled the country, and they turned off the lights when they left,” he added.
The night-light signature in four other large Iraqi cities - Kirkuk, Mosul, Tikrit and Karbala - held steady or increased between the spring of 2006 and the winter of 2007, the UCLA team found.
None of these cities were targets of the surge.
Baghdad’’s decreases were centered in the southwestern Sunni strongholds of East and West Rashid, where the light signature dropped 57 percent and 80 percent, respectively, during the same period.
By contrast, the night-light signature in the notoriously impoverished, Shiite-dominated Sadr City remained constant, as it did in the American-dominated Green Zone.
The researchers found that light actually increased in Shiite-dominated New Baghdad.
Until just before the surge, the night-light signature of Baghdad had been steadily increasing overall, the researchers report in “Baghdad Nights: Evaluating the U.S. Military ”Surge” Using Night Light Signatures.”
According to co-author Thomas Gillespie, an associate professor of geography at UCLA, “If the surge had truly ”worked,” we would expect to see a steady increase in night-light output over time, as electrical infrastructure continued to be repaired and restored, with little discrimination across neighborhoods.”
“Instead, we found that the night-light signature diminished in only in certain neighborhoods, and the pattern appears to be associated with ethno-sectarian violence and neighborhood ethnic cleansing,” he added. (ANI)

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