- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Iraqi insurgents bombed a third bridge in as many days yesterday, disrupting troop movements in what military strategists see as evidence of an increasingly sophisticated enemy command-and-control structure.

“They are shaping the battlefield the way they want it shaped,” said Paul Hughes, a retired U.S. Army colonel and a senior program officer at the United States Institute of Peace.

“They are a very smart enemy. For them to take on the strategy of isolating major parts of Iraq from other parts does kind of suggest that they have a complex strategic plan,” he said.

Sunni insurgents were suspected in the bombing yesterday that badly damaged a span over the main north-south highway leading from Baghdad, news agencies reported.

It was the third time a bridge has been attacked since Monday, suggesting the insurgents are conducting a coordinated campaign against key transportation arteries. At least four other bridge attacks have occurred since a bomb collapsed the Sarafiyah bridge in central Baghdad on April 12.

“Suddenly, it appears that they have got a plan, one that suggests there is more command-and-control over the activities,” said Mr. Hughes, who still travels to Baghdad.

The bridge-bombing campaign, combined with the use of buried roadside bombs, serves to further isolate Shi’ite neighborhoods in Baghdad and complicate U.S. military logistics, he said.

It also emphasizes to the population the Iraqi government’s inability to defend the country’s vital infrastructure.

“It is a systematic approach” by the insurgents, the strongest element of which is al Qaeda, to bring the country and its majority Shi’ite leadership to its knees, said one retired military officer working for a private company in Iraq.

In the past, insurgents have targeted teachers and universities, doctors, industry leaders, journalists, politicians and leaders of grass-roots organizations — driving the best-educated and most-talented people out of the country — as well as national police and Westerners.

Shi’ite militias have countered with vicious rounds of killing and torturing Sunni civilians, and by lobbing mortars into Sunni neighborhoods. Open confrontations between armed groups are rare, leaving civilians as the war’s primary victims.

Yesterday’s attack struck at a bridge six miles south of another that was brought down on Sunday, the Associated Press reported. Three U.S. soldiers were killed in that blast.

The latest explosion took place at 7:30 a.m. on a bridge linking the villages of Qariya al-Asriyah and Rashayed in northern Babil province, 35 miles south of Baghdad. No injuries were reported.

About 60 percent of the bridge was damaged, but one lane was passable, police said. Debris from the blast fell onto the main north-south expressway, which has been closed since Sunday’s blast.

On Monday, a parked truck exploded on a bridge carrying traffic over the Diyala River in Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad. Again, no casualties were reported, but vehicles were forced to detour to a road running through al Qaeda-controlled territory.

Violence persisted elsewhere yesterday, much of it northeast of Baghdad in Diyala province, which is swarming with al Qaeda fighters.

Many of them were driven out of Baghdad by the four-month-old U.S. security operation, and others moved from Anbar province after Sunni tribesman rose up against the terrorist group.

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