The much touted “surge” of U.S. troops in Baquba has caused more problems that it has solved, residents say.
Baquba, capital city of Iraq’s Diyala province located 65 km northeast of Baghdad, has long been a volatile city plagued by rampant violence and administrative chaos.
In January this year, the Bush administration announced a “surge” of 20,000 additional U.S. troops to be sent into Baghdad, Diyala and al-Anbar province (to the west of Baghdad) to increase security.
The total number of U.S. troops in Iraq is now 169,000, the highest through the occupation. This is augmented by at least 180,000 private personnel through contracts paid for by the U.S. government. Estimates of the total number of mercenaries in Iraq vary between 50,000 and 70,000.
But despite such numbers, Diyala is controlled by criminal gangs, militias, al-Qaeda like forces, and only on occasion – as at present — by U.S. forces. Between all of these, normal life has come to a halt.
Amidst the fear and violence, streets remain empty, even of Iraqi army or police.
“All of my neighbours initially hailed the U.S. surge in the city,” Jabbar Kadhim, a local grocer told IPS. “We see no hope in the (Iraqi) government.” U.S. forces took over the entire city and blocked all roads.”