- The Washington Times - Monday, June 4, 2007

From combined dispatches

BAGHDAD — Insurgents linked to al Qaeda issued a video yesterday claiming they killed all three American soldiers captured in an ambush last month. “They were alive and then dead,” a voice said during a sequence of images that included the military IDs of two Americans still missing.

The nearly 11-minute video by an al Qaeda front group, the Islamic State of Iraq, offered no proof that the soldiers were killed and buried. The U.S. military insisted the massive manhunt south of Baghdad will continue.

The body of one of the soldiers was found in Iraq’s Euphrates River, but the other two remain missing.

“We condemn the tactics used by these terrorists, and are using all means available to pursue those responsible,” said Army Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner, the chief military spokesman in Baghdad. “We continue to search and hope that our two missing soldiers will be found alive and in good health.”

The video, posted on a militant Web site, included grainy black-and-white footage said to have been taken during the May 12 pre-dawn ambush. It also showed credit cards, money and other personal items that the militants called “booty.” A headline said: “Bush is the reason of the loss of your POWs.”

Meanwhile, a retired general who led coalition forces in Iraq during the first year of the occupation said the United States can forget about winning the war.

“I think if we do the right things politically and economically with the right Iraqi leadership we could still salvage at least a stalemate, if you will — not a stalemate but at least stave off defeat,” retired Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez said in an interview with Agence France-Presse, his first since he retired last year.

Gen. Sanchez is the highest-ranking retired military leader to suggest the Bush administration fell short in Iraq.

“I am absolutely convinced that America has a crisis in leadership at this time,” Gen. Sanchez said after a recent speech in San Antonio.

“We’ve got to do whatever we can to help the next generation of leaders do better than we have done over the past five years, better than what this cohort of political and military leaders have done,” adding that he was “referring to our national political leadership in its entirety,” and not just President Bush.

Gen. Sanchez, 56, called the situation in Iraq bleak and blamed it on “the abysmal performance in the early stages and the transition of sovereignty.”

Gen. Sanchez took command in the summer of 2003 and was in the middle of some of the most momentous U.S. decisions of the war, among them the dissolution of the Iraqi army and barring millions of Ba’ath Party members from government jobs: two actions seen as triggering the insurgency.

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