On Aug. 28, some 12 devices reportedly detonated simultaneously in mostly Shiite neighborhoods in Baghdad, killing 30 people and wounding another 160. Such coordinated, high-casualty attacks have become common in Iraq since the withdrawal of U.S. forces from the country at the end of 2011. The majority of operations, which are carried out by groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, have been concentrated in certain geographic regions against similar targets by insurgents using a standard set of tactics.
The violence has occurred primarily in regions around Baghdad, Tikrit, Kirkuk and Mosul. Less frequently, militants have also attacked national security forces stationed in Sunni regions and targets deeper into areas traditionally controlled by Shia. The geographic focus of the attacks indicates that the reach of militants is limited to areas in which they can routinely operate freely, typically where the Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish spheres of influence intersect.
Near-daily attacks seem likely to continue, but the dramatic rise in violence in Iraq does not portend a return to total instability. A close look at the tactics, target sets and geographical locations of recent operations indicates that there has not been a marked increase in militant capabilities, despite the high casualty counts. Moreover, militants have avoided attacking critical economic installations and important government targets, and the violence has not disrupted Iraq's delicate balance of power, which has helped facilitate the country's reconstruction after a decade of war.