U.S. to Rethink Baghdad Peace Efforts

Team Infidel

Forum Spin Doctor
Media: The Associated Press
Date: 20 October 2006


BAGHDAD, Iraq_The U.S. military acknowledged Thursday that its two-month
drive to crush insurgent and militia violence in the Iraqi capital had
fallen short, calling the raging bloodshed disheartening and saying it was
rethinking its strategy to rein in gunmen, torturers and bombers.

The admission by military spokesman Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell came as
car bombs, mortar fire and shootings around the country killed at least 66
people and wounded 175. The dead included the Anbar province police
commander, slain by gunmen who burst into his home in Ramadi.

The U.S. military also announced the deaths of three U.S. troops in
fighting, raising the toll for American troops in October to 74. The month
is on course to be the deadliest for U.S. forces in nearly two years.

The high death tolls this month for both Americans and Iraqis have pushed
the long and unpopular war back into the public eye in the United States,
forcing the Bush administration and the military to address difficult
questions in the final weeks of the midterm U.S. election campaign.

Vice President Dick Cheney said the United States was not looking for a way
out of Iraq. "I know what the president thinks. I know what I think. And
we're not looking for an exit strategy. We're looking for victory," Cheney
said in an interview posted on Time magazine's Web site Thursday.

Caldwell told reporters the U.S.-Iraqi bid to crush violence in the capital
had not delivered the desired results, with attacks in Baghdad rising by 22
percent in the first three weeks of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan when
compared to the three previous weeks.

"In Baghdad, Operation Together Forward has made a difference in the focus
areas but has not met our overall expectations in sustaining a reduction in
the level of violence," Caldwell said at a news briefing. He was referring
to the security sweep, which began Aug. 7 with the introduction of an
additional 12,000 U.S. and Iraqi troops into Baghdad.

"The violence is indeed disheartening," he said.

Caldwell said U.S. troops over the last week were forced to launch a second
sweep of southern Baghdad's Dora district after a surge in sectarian
attacks. At least eight people, including four policemen, were killed in
bombings and shootings in Dora on Thursday, police said.

"We find the insurgent elements, the extremists are in fact punching back
hard, they're trying to get back into those areas," Caldwell said.

He said security plans were being reviewed for the sprawling, low-rise
capital of 6 million people, where rival Shiite and Sunni Muslim sects live
in uneasy proximity to each other and the bodies of victims of sectarian
death squads are found dumped on the streets each morning.

"It's clear that the conditions under which we started are probably not the
same today and so it does require some modifications of the plan," Caldwell

His gloomy assessment came amid tensions between the United States and the
nearly 5-month-old government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Frustration over al-Maliki's failure to crack down on sectarian groups could
be exacerbated by revelations that the prime minister ordered U.S. troops to
release Mazin al-Sa'edi, a top organizer in western Baghdad for radical
Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Caldwell said al-Sa'edi was freed after being detained Wednesday with five
aides for suspected involvement in Shiite violence. Al-Sadr's al-Mahdi Army
has been blamed for sporadic attacks and for inspiring groups kidnapping and
killing Sunnis.

The newly reported U.S. deaths included a Marine and a soldier killed in
Anbar province in the Sunni heartland west of Baghdad and another soldier
who died in a roadside bombing near Balad, the city north of Baghdad where
at least 95 Sunnis and Shiites were killed in five days of revenge attacks.

Caldwell said the spike in violence was in line with past increases during
Ramadan. But he also said a more aggressive stance toward insurgents was
leading to more engagements _ and more U.S. deaths.

Among those taking part in the security push, Maj. Ken Slover of the 172nd
Stryker Brigade said the higher death toll was a result of the presence of
greater numbers of U.S. soldiers in Baghdad.

"We're out in the woods, we're out there looking for the enemy," said
Slover, who on Thursday was overseeing the distribution of 50 gasoline
generators and food packages in western Baghdad.

"When there's more presence, there's more chance" of casualties," Slover

The Stryker Brigade's yearlong tour in Iraq was extended by 120 days when
they were recently shifted to Baghdad.

As U.S. troops focus on crushing insurgent and militia activity in central
Iraq, the northern cities of Mosul and Kirkuk have seen a significant
increase in violence. Most attacks have been blamed on Sunni Arab militants
fighting to block the cities' feared integration into the Kurdish-controlled
region in the north.

On Thursday, police in Mosul shot to death a suicide bomber driving a truck
at high speed toward a police post, said Col. Khalaf Ismail. Although the
post was saved, the gunfire ignited fuel and explosives on the truck,
killing 12 people and wounding 25 _ mostly motorists lined up for gasoline
at a nearby service station. Col. Abed Hamed al-Jibouri said 42 cars were
destroyed in the blast.

In Kirkuk, a suicide bomber attacked a bank where civilians and army
soldiers were waiting to get their wages. Twelve people, including four
troops, were killed and 47 were wounded, said police Brig. Sarhat Qader.

Interior Ministry spokesman Brig. Abdul-Karim Khalaf said militants of
al-Qaida in Iraq suffered unspecified losses in clashes with security and
tribal forces in Ramadi, 70 miles west of Baghdad.

He said as many as 60 al-Qaida gunmen arrived Wednesday in 17 vehicles and
remained there for 15 minutes before being forced to flee.

Witnesses in Ramadi confirmed the basics of Khalaf's account, but added that
the masked gunmen staged a military-like parade, carrying banners exhorting
people to support an Islamic state in Iraq. They said mosques used
loudspeakers to rally support for the new state.

The Mujahedeen Shura Council _ an umbrella organization of insurgent groups
that includes al-Qaida in Iraq _ said in a video Sunday that it has
established an Islamic state made up of six provinces, including Baghdad.

Insurgents are not known to control any territory. However, the Ramadi
parade pointed to their growing confidence in a city where U.S. and Iraqi
forces have a heavy presence.

In the largely peaceful, Shiite-dominated south of the country, a fight
broke out Thursday pitting Shiites against each other in Amarah. Clashes
erupted between members of the Mahdi Army and policemen trying to stop the
fighters from storming their headquarters. Nine people were killed,
including six militiamen, and 59 were wounded, police and hospital officials