Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Pentagon prognosis on Iraq is mixed

WASHINGTON The Sunni Arab heart of the Iraqi insurgency seems likely to hold its strength for the rest of this year, and some of its leaders are now collaborating with Al Qaeda terrorists, the Pentagon said Tuesday.

In a report assessing the Iraq situation, as required quarterly by Congress, the Pentagon painted a mixed picture on a day when the U.S. military command in Baghdad said 1,500 more combat troops had arrived in Iraq. The extra troops are part of an intensified effort to wrest control of Ramadi, a provincial capital, from insurgents.

The report to Congress offered a relatively dim picture of economic progress, with few gains in improving basic services like electricity, and it provided no promise of U.S. troop reductions anytime soon. On the other hand, it said the Iraqi Army was gaining strength and taking lead responsibility for security in more areas.

The U.S. government has struggled for three years to understand the insurgency in Iraq, which began in the Sunni Triangle west and north of Baghdad. In the report to Congress released Tuesday, the Pentagon said that the "rejectionists" who are a key element of the insurgency are holding their own against U.S. and Iraqi forces.

The top American military command in Baghdad, known as the Multinational Force Iraq, or MNF-I, "expects that rejectionist strength will likely remain steady throughout 2006, but that their appeal and motivation for continued violent action will begin to wane in early 2007," the report said.

It also said for the first time that the Sunnis who reject the U.S.-based government are collaborating with Al Qaeda. "Some hard-line Sunni rejectionists have joined Al Qaeda in Iraq in recent months, increasing the terrorists' attack options," the report said.

It said fighters in the insurgency that U.S. officials describe as former loyalists of the Saddam Hussein regime still have a role in the violence in Iraq. But the Saddam loyalists are now "largely irrelevant" as a threat to the fledgling Iraqi government, according to Lieutenant General Victor Renuart, the head of strategic plans and policy for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who helped prepare the report.

The report also said that while security had improved in much of Iraq, total attacks against U.S. and Iraqi forces had increased in recent months, following the Feb. 22 bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra.

The troop movement into Iraq announced Tuesday involved about 1,500 soldiers from an armored brigade on standby in Kuwait and reflected a deteriorating security situation in the volatile provincial capital of Ramadi. It raises the number of U.S. military brigades in Iraq from 15 to 16, just five months after the number was cut from 17 to 15. A brigade has at least 3,500 troops.

The administration is under pressure during this congressional election year to demonstrate concrete progress in Iraq and to begin reducing U.S. troop levels at a time when the U.S. Army and the Marine Corps in particular are stretched thin by their war deployments.

A Pentagon spokesman, Bryan Whitman, said 130,000 U.S. troops are in Iraq. It was not clear whether that included the 1,500 soldiers from two battalions of the 2nd Brigade of the 1st Armored Division whose deployment to the Ramadi area was described as "short term" in a U.S. military statement from Baghdad.

In other developments Tuesday, insurgents continued to mount a series of bomb attacks. The deadliest struck a popular market during the evening in Husseiniya, 32 kilometers, or 20 miles, north of Baghdad, killing at least 25 people and wounding 65, an Interior Ministry spokesman said.

The Iraqi government, meanwhile, said its security forces had arrested a key terror suspect, Ahmed Hussein Dabash Samer al-Battawi, who it said had confessed to beheading hundreds of people.

Battawi was arrested by an Iraqi antiterrorist combat unit, which also seized documents, cellphones and computers that contained information on other suspected terrorists and Islamic extremist groups, the prime minister's office said.

Danes extend mission in Iraq

The Danish Parliament voted Tuesday to keep the nation's troops in Iraq for another year, passing a bill that was opposed by all parties except the governing center-right coalition and its ally, the anti-immigrant DPP, Reuters reported from Copenhagen.

The government, led by Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said earlier this month that it would shift some of its 530 troops to UN duties. The changes would mean a reduction in the force by 10 to 40 members. The new mandate for the Danish force expires on July 1, 2007. The troops are stationed near Basra, in the south of Iraq.


Here is the VOA version

A direct result of mismanagement and failed strategy of the current administration, and their rubber stamp congress. The GOP has not only failed America and the ideals of spreading democracy, but they have also failed the people of Iraq and all peoples world wide that yearn to be free.


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