- The Washington Times - Monday, July 24, 2006

President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, abandoning a six-week-old security strategy for Baghdad that proved to be a failure, will today seek to devise a new plan that will include adding thousands of U.S. and Iraqi troops to fight insurgents in the capital.

Although the White House would not confirm that the new plan will include a redeployment of American troops, U.S. military leaders said yesterday that more soldiers will be moved to Baghdad. The size of the redeployment is not known, but units that were to be sent elsewhere are being diverted to the capital.

The number of Iraqi and U.S. troops in Baghdad recently has grown from 40,000 to about 55,000.

U.S. spokesman Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said: “Clearly Baghdad is the center that everybody is fighting for. We will do whatever it takes to bring security to Baghdad.”

Mr. al-Maliki and Mr. Bush will meet today in the Oval Office, and White House spokesman Tony Snow said security in Baghdad will be a top issue. He said a new plan, which could be announced today during a press conference by the two leaders, is “under consideration.”

“It is clearly something that is going to be, if not at the top of the agenda, quite close to it. … It’s pretty clear that there’s an attempt in Baghdad to create as much chaos and havoc as possible. And it’s important to make sure that we address this,” Mr. Snow said.

On June 14, Mr. al-Maliki and top U.S. military advisers announced Operation Forward Together, a plan to put 43,000 Iraqi army and police and 7,200 U.S. troops into Baghdad to crack down on violence there. But since then, hundreds of Iraqis have died in massacres and car bombings.

Mr. Snow said yesterday that Operation Forward Together “has not achieved its objectives.”

Mr. al-Maliki, trying to make headway against violence as the head of Iraq’s first democratically elected government since Saddam Hussein’s ouster, is not satisfied with the operation either, Mr. Snow said.

“He has been talking with [Gen. George Casey, the U.S. commander in Iraq] and others about finding ways to be effective, going after a combination of random gang violence as well as sectarian violence within Baghdad proper,” Mr. Snow said.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said yesterday that additional units will be identified to replace units coming home during a rotation of U.S. forces that begins in September, but overall force levels are expected to remain about the same.

The U.S. has about 127,000 troops in Iraq. A senior Defense Department official said that the remainder of a backup force that had been stationed in Kuwait is heading into Iraq and that some U.S. military police companies are being shifted to Baghdad, involving 500 to 1,000 troops.

In addition, a cavalry squadron and a battalion of field artillery troops will move to the city and at least two Iraqi military brigades will be brought in from other parts of the country, said the official, who requested anonymity.

With midterm elections only about three months away, both political parties are looking for leverage on what might be a decisive issue at the polls. Although the Bush administration insists there is no civil war in Iraq, Democrats disagree.

“There is a civil war in Iraq,” said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. “In the last two months, more than 6,000 Iraqis have been killed. It is averaging more than a hundred a day being killed in Iraq. We need to make sure there is a debate on this.”

This story is based in part on wire service dispatches.

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