- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 10, 2004

AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq — The United States hopes to reduce its troop levels in Iraq after the January elections if security improves and Iraqi government forces continue to expand and make progress, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday.

Mr. Rumsfeld, on an unannounced visit to Iraq, spoke just hours after car bombers struck twice in rapid succession in the capital, killing at least 11 persons, including an American soldier.

In a question-and-answer session with hundreds of Marines in a concrete-lined aircraft hangar in western Iraq, Mr. Rumsfeld was asked what the future holds for the length and frequency of troop deployments in the country.

The secretary said insurgent violence is likely to worsen in the weeks ahead, so troop reductions are almost out of the question. The United States has approximately 135,000 troops in Iraq.

“Our hope is that as we build up Iraqi forces, we will be able to relieve the stress on our forces and see a reduction in coalition forces over some period of time, probably post-Iraqi elections,” Mr. Rumsfeld said. “But, again, it will depend entirely on the security situation here in this country.”

Later, Mr. Rumsfeld flew to Kirkuk in the north, where he received a briefing from the top commander in the area, Maj. Gen. John Batiste, and other American officers, who told him that the number of insurgent attacks had decreased since July.

They also said that U.S.-trained Iraqi forces in the area were improving so quickly that they recently had planned and executed offensive operations on their own, with U.S. officers present only as observers.

Violence continued to plague the insurgent stronghold of Ramadi, however. Residents reached by telephone said insurgents staged attacks in a half-dozen parts of the city west of Baghdad, and that four explosions shook the center of the city last night.

Iraq’s most feared terror group — Tawhid and Jihad — claimed responsibility for the near-simultaneous car bombings in the east of the capital, one near a police academy and the other outside a market as an American military convoy was passing by.

At least 16 persons were wounded.

An American soldier was fatally injured and one Iraqi was wounded in the convoy attack, U.S. and Iraqi officials said.

The Kindi hospital said it received 10 bodies from the police academy blast, including three academy students and a female officer. Police said 15 were injured in the attack.

In a statement posted on the Internet, Tawhid and Jihad, led by Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab Zarqawi, said the car bombings were carried out by its military wing and were “martyrdom” operations, meaning suicide attacks.

Elsewhere, the U.S. command said a Marine was killed Saturday by hostile fire in Anbar province but gave no details. Insurgents ambushed a Marine convoy yesterday near the western town of Hit, U.S. officials said. Marines killed three of the attackers and wounded five, but suffered no casualties.

In Baghdad, an Iraqi intelligence officer was killed yesterday morning in a drive-by shooting as he left home for work, said Col. Adnan Abdul-Rahman of the Interior Ministry.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide