Top US general hails progress in Baghdad clampdown




 
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August 24th, 2006  
Team Infidel
 
 

Topic: Top US general hails progress in Baghdad clampdown


Media: Reuters
Byline: Ibon Villelabeitia
Date: 24 August 2006

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The top U.S. general in the Middle East praised a major
security clampdown in Baghdad on Thursday and said Iraq was far from civil
war.

On a day when three car bombs and two roadside bombs killed four people and
wounded 24 in the capital, General John Abizaid told reporters: "I think
there has been great progress on the security front in Baghdad recently. We
are very optimistic that the situation will stabilize."

The U.S. military has sent reinforcements to Baghdad to help the government
take back the streets from sectarian militias and death squads, who have
been blamed for the killing of thousands in violence that has raised fears
of civil war.

Abizaid, who met General John Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said
comments he made earlier this month before the U.S. Senate in which he said
the sectarian violence in Iraq was the worst he had seen had been
misrepresented.

"I never said that Iraq was one foot from civil war. It is amazing how you
say things sometimes and they get reported differently. I believe there is
danger of civil war in Iraq, but only a danger. I think Iraq is far from
it."

U.S. commanders have said the clampdown -- which has put an additional
12,000 U.S. and Iraqi forces on the city's streets -- has produced a sharp
decline in violence in some deadly Sunni and Shi'ite neighborhoods.

"THE BATTLE OF BAGHDAD"

In an opinion piece published in the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, U.S.
Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad repeated statements made by Iraqi and U.S.
leaders that the operation to pacify Baghdad was a make-or-break mission.

"The battle of Baghdad will determine the future of Iraq, which will itself
go a long way to determining the future of the world's most vital region,"
Khalilzad wrote.

Khalilzad said that in July Baghdad experienced "a 10 percent increase over
the already high monthly average" of violent incidents, leaving 2,100 people
dead.

He said 77 percent of the casualties were the result of sectarian violence,
"giving rise to fears of an impending civil war in Iraq".

Violence claimed more lives on Thursday, and the U.S. military announced
that two U.S. soldiers had been killed in Baghdad in the last 48 hours.

A car driven by a suicide bomber killed two civilians in the religiously
mixed eastern neighborhood of New Baghdad and wounded nine people, including
two policemen.

Another car bomb targeting a police patrol in the Sunni neighborhood of
Adhamiya killed two civilians, police said.

An Interior Ministry spokesman denied on Thursday media reports that the
minister had escaped an assassination attempt on Wednesday in the
religiously mixed district of Doura.

The spokesman said an explosion had occurred in an area in Doura 10 minutes
after an Interior Ministry motorcade had driven past but that the minister
had not been present.

In the south, British troops abandoned their base in Maysan province, which
had been under almost nightly attack, and prepared to head deep into the
marshlands along the Iranian border to hunt gun smugglers.

The 600 soldiers will form a highly mobile unit traveling in stripped-down
Land Rovers armed with heavy machine guns and will have no permanent base.

U.S. and British officials have accused Iran of arming Shi'ite militias
blamed for much of the sectarian violence, as well as for attacks on foreign
troops.
 


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