- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 19, 2006

BAGHDAD — The U.S. military acknowledged yesterday that its two-month drive to crush insurgent and militia violence in the Iraqi capital had fallen short, calling the rising 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 across the country killed at least 66 persons 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.

Gen. Caldwell told reporters the U.S.-Iraq bid to crush violence in the capital had not produced 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 with 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,” Gen. Caldwell said. 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.

Gen. Caldwell said U.S. troops over the past week were forced to carry out a second sweep of southern Baghdad’s Dora district after a surge in sectarian attacks.

“We find the insurgent elements, the extremists are in fact punching back hard; they’re trying to get back into those areas,” Gen. Caldwell said.

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

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 Mr. 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 a top organizer for radical Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Gen. Caldwell said Mazin al-Sa’edi was freed after being detained Wednesday with five aides for suspected involvement in Shi’ite violence.

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.

Yesterday, police in Mosul fatally shot the driver of a truck approaching a police post at high speed, police said. Although the post was saved, the gunfire ignited fuel and explosives on the truck, killing 12 persons and wounding 25 — mostly motorists lined up for gasoline at a nearby service station.

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

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