About U.S. Considers Adding Troops in Baghdad
|October 25th, 2006||#1|
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U.S. Considers Adding Troops in Baghdad info
Byline: STEVEN R. HURST
Date: 25 October 2006
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Two weeks before U.S. midterm elections, American officials
unveiled a timeline Tuesday for Iraq's Shiite-led government to take
specific steps to calm the world's most dangerous capital and said more U.S.
troops might be needed to quell the bloodshed.
U.S. officials previously said they were satisfied with troop levels and had
expected to make significant reductions by year's end. But a surge in
sectarian killings, which welled up this past summer, forced them to
At a rare joint news conference with the American ambassador, the top U.S.
commander in Iraq, Gen. George Casey, said additional U.S. troops could come
from inside or outside Iraq to "improve basic services for the population of
"Now, do we need more troops to do that? Maybe. And, as I've said all along,
if we do, I will ask for the troops I need, both coalition and Iraqis,"
Casey said. There are currently 144,000 U.S. forces in Iraq.
The military has expressed disappointment over its two-month drive to
cleanse the capital of Sunni insurgents and Shiite militia fighters and
death squads. But the Americans also say that for the situation to improve,
the Iraqi government must make political concessions to minority Sunnis.
The timeline grew out of recent Washington meetings at which the Bush
administration sought to reshape its Iraq policy amid mounting U.S. deaths
and declining domestic support for the 44-month-old war. The plan was made
public a day after White House press secretary Tony Snow said the U.S. was
adjusting its Iraq strategy but would not issue any ultimatums.
U.S. officials revealed neither specific incentives for the Iraqis to
implement the plan nor penalties for their failure to do so. U.S. Ambassador
Zalmay Khalilzad said Iraqi leaders had agreed to the timeline, benchmarks
heavily laden with enticements to Sunni insurgents.
The lack of any real political consensus even among Shiites, however, has
made it extremely difficult for Iraqi leaders to keep deadlines; for
example, they missed targeted dates on naming a government and in moving
forward on constitutional amendments. Moreover, Tuesday's declarations
lacked specifics on how to accomplish the goals.
At the news conference with Casey, Khalilzad said the timeline would require
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government to set dates by the end of the
year for completing six key tasks.
Five of the markers are clearly designed to mollify Sunni Arabs, the Muslim
sect that makes up the bulk of the insurgency and is responsible for most
American deaths in Iraq.
The plan seeks deadlines for passing a law that would guarantee the sharing
of Iraq's oil wealth, amending the constitution, turning an anti-Baathist
organization into a reconciliation body, disbanding Shiite militias and
setting a date for provincial elections _ all key issues for Sunnis.
The de-Baathification Commission was established after the toppling of
Saddam Hussein to ensure that members of the dictator's political
organization did not hold government positions.
The sixth measure called for "increasing the credibility and capability of
Casey said Iraqi forces would be "completely capable" of controlling the
country within the next 1 1/2 years.
"We are about 75 percent of the way through a three-step process in building
those (Iraqi) forces," the general said. "It is going to take another 12 to
18 months or so until I believe the Iraqi security forces are completely
capable of taking over responsibility for their own security. That's still
coupled with some level of support from us."
Casey's estimate of when the Iraqi army will be ready was noteworthy because
it has not changed even as the security situation in the country has
deteriorated. Iraqis are now being killed at a pace of more than 40 each day
in sectarian fighting and revenge killing.
Complicating the matter has been the recent outbreak of sustained
Shiite-on-Shiite violence in the once relatively calm south of the country.
To curb the spreading and increasingly brutal killings, Khalilzad said the
United States was "inducing Iraqi political and religious leaders who can
control or influence armed groups in Baghdad to agree to stop sectarian
violence," an apparent reference to recent secret talks the United States
has conducted with Sunni insurgents.
Al-Maliki has repeatedly said he would rein in Shiite militias but so far
has taken little public action beyond a decision to move aside two police
commando leaders. He issued a statement on Monday saying the military had
been ordered to take action against any illegal armed group, but the
declaration, like the timeline introduced on Tuesday, lacked detail.
His national security adviser, Mouwafak al-Rubaie, sought to add weight to
the prime minister's directive in an interview with CNN. He was, however,
equally fuzzy about what action would be taken.
"The Iraqi security forces are going to take on anyone who challenges"
them," al-Rubaie said.
Khalilzad said he had assurances from al-Maliki that radical anti-American
Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr would disband his Mahdi Army. But al-Sadr
draws much of his power from his control over the heavily armed fighters.
And al-Maliki draws much of his support from al-Sadr.
For that reason, disbanding the feared militia group appears to be a promise
that is unlikely to be kept in the near term. Such a move would leave the
other main Shiite militia, the Badr Brigade of the Supreme Council for the
Revolution in Iraq, or SCIRI, in a dominant position.
Al-Sadr and SCIRI leader Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim maintain a sharp rivalry for
power over Iraq's Shiite majority. Logic dictates that both militias be
disbanded simultaneously, which appears highly unlikely.
While Shiite militias and death squad violence represent a major security
problem, curbing them would still leave the other half of the equation
unsolved _ the continued vibrancy of the Sunni insurgency that has been
attacking Americans with a vengeance since summer 2003.
The timeline appeared, therefore, largely directed at luring the Sunni
establishment away from violence and into the political process.
October has been the deadliest month this year for American forces. The
military Tuesday announced the deaths of two more U.S. Marines, a sailor and
a soldier. Since the start of the war, 2,801 U.S. service members have died
in Iraq, according to an Associated Press count.
Also Tuesday, the military said it had found no sign of a U.S. Army
translator missing after he was believed to have been kidnapped the night
before in Baghdad. Troops continued to search the city's downtown on foot
and by air.
The military said the soldier, a linguist who was not identified by name,
was last seen inside Green Zone on Monday. He was then believed to have left
to visit Iraqi relatives in the city.
He was apparently at the relatives' house when three cars carrying masked
gunmen arrived. The soldier was handcuffed and driven away. One of the
kidnappers then called one of the relatives using the kidnap victim's cell
phone, the military said. It didn't say if ransom was demanded.
Across the country, police reported that 11 Iraqis, including two policemen
and a soldier, were killed in bombings and shootings; authorities said 14
bodies were found dumped or pulled from the Tigris River.
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