U.S. Counsels Patience Amid Iraq Security Sweep

Team Infidel

Forum Spin Doctor
Los Angeles Times
April 2, 2007
Officials say results will take time. McCain, in Baghdad, lauds tangible improvements.
By Laura King, Times Staff Writer
BAGHDAD — After a violent week that claimed the lives of more than 500 Iraqis, and the weekend combat deaths of six American soldiers, U.S. and Iraqi military officials acknowledged Sunday that it would take time for the effects of a security crackdown in Iraq to be felt.
The U.S. military disclosed late in the day that two of its troops were killed Saturday night by a roadside bomb southwest of Baghdad, and four others were slain later in the same area in what appeared to be an ambush laid for would-be rescuers.
A seventh soldier died Sunday in Al Anbar province of noncombat causes, the military said without disclosing details.
A new Iraqi government tally indicated that the number of violent civilian deaths nationwide had climbed to 1,861 in March, up from 1,645 in February. American and Iraqi troops launched a wide-ranging security sweep in the capital on Feb. 13.
More troops in June
About half of the 30,000 additional U.S. troops requested as part of President Bush's "surge" strategy are now in place, Navy Rear Adm. Mark I. Fox said at a news conference Sunday. The remainder are to be deployed by early June, many of them in Baghdad, he said.
Fox said that quelling sectarian attacks nationwide could prove a lengthy enterprise.
"The effort to exert security in Iraq will take time," he said. "Our job will not be accomplished within days or weeks…. We are going to see more violence in the coming weeks and months."
Amid the latest bloodshed, Republican presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain of Arizona visited Baghdad on Sunday and insisted to journalists that tangible improvements in the security situation in the Iraqi capital were being underemphasized in news reports.
McCain, who was part of a GOP congressional delegation, said the security sweep in Baghdad had led to visible improvements.
He pointed to his delegation's trip from the airport to the city center in an armored convoy, a departure from the usual VIP practice of traveling directly to the heavily fortified Green Zone by helicopter. The lawmakers also made an hourlong visit to a central Baghdad market that has been the target of frequent bombings.
"You read every day about suicide bombings, kidnappings, rocket attacks and other terrible acts," McCain told reporters. "What we don't read about and what is new is a lot of the good news: the drop in murders in Baghdad, the establishment of security outposts throughout the city.
"These and other indicators are reasons for very cautious optimism about the effects of the new strategy," he said.
Lawmakers targeted
Hours before the senator spoke, two senior Iraqi politicians, both Sunni Arabs, narrowly escaped an assassination attempt in the central Baghdad neighborhood of Yarmouk.
A bomb exploded near the vehicle carrying Omar Abdul-Sattar and Omar Jabouri as it traveled through the district.
U.S. military officials disclosed Sunday that two unexploded suicide vests had been found in the Green Zone, but gave no details. Last week, a rocket attack killed two Americans in the closely guarded enclave that houses the U.S. Embassy and many Iraqi government offices.
A senior Iraqi military spokesman said a deadly increase in sectarian attacks in other cities and towns in recent days was in part a consequence of the tighter security in Baghdad.
Last week saw what the government said was the deadliest attack of the 4-year-old war, a double truck bombing in the northern town of Tall Afar that Iraqi officials said killed 152 people.
Al Qaeda blamed
U.S. and Iraqi officials have blamed Sunni insurgents linked to Al Qaeda in the recent attacks targeting Shiite Muslims.
"The terrorists went to the surrounding areas, and these areas are breeding grounds for violence," Brig. Gen. Qassim Musawi said at the news conference with Fox.
On the edge of the northern city of Mosul, two vehicle bombs exploded outside an Iraqi army base, injuring between 15 and 20 Iraqi security personnel. Reuters news service said two civilians were killed.
In the restive province of Diyala, north of Baghdad, suspected Sunni Arab insurgents set up a roadblock on a main road and kidnapped 19 people, all thought to be Shiites. Two people were reported killed in an explosion in a market town south of Kirkuk.
In Baghdad, where the bodies of those slain in sectarian violence are dumped daily in various parts of the city, 17 corpses were recovered Sunday. All were men killed execution-style, most apparently shot at close range while their hands were bound.
Special correspondent Ruaa Al-Zarary in Mosul and staff writers Suhail Ahmad and Raheem Salman in Baghdad contributed to this report.