With debate intensifying in Washington about when to bring home U.S. troops in Iraq, the Baker-Hamilton Commission that called for all troops to be out by next spring may go back to work, reports CBS News chief White House correspondent Jim Axelrod
"We gave the president an opportunity a few months ago for a bipartisan solution to Iraq," said co-chair Lee H. Hamilton. "He chose not to follow that immediately. I think the realities on the ground have made our proposals more attractive."
The House of Representatives passed a bill providing a million dollars to reconstitute Baker-Hamilton, adds Axelrod. Hamilton says while conditions in Iraq have changed since their initial report last fall, their main point has not: the security of Baghdad's neighborhoods shouldn't be the priority for U.S. forces — training Iraqi troops should be.
"I mean, the only way you really get out of there is to make that the primary mission of U.S. forces," said Hamilton.
But a Congressional investigation concludes that after spending $19 billion on exactly that, the Iraqi security forces are not yet ready to assume responsibility for the nation's security, Axelrod reports.
Investigators charge that the Department of Defense cannot report how many of the 346,500 Iraqi military and police personnel are operational today.
In other developments:The U.S. military announced Wednesday that coalition forces killed a senior al-Qaida leader and his courier, both Turks, in an operation in northern Iraq. Mehmet Yilmaz, also known as Khalid al-Turki, operated a cell that facilitated the movement of foreign fighters into Iraq for al-Qaida operations, U.S. Central Command said in a statement. After four years of combat and more than 3,560 U.S. deaths, two Republican senators previously reluctant to challenge President Bush on the war announced they could no longer support the deployment of 157,000 troops and asked the president to begin bringing them home.
CBS News chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer said a GOP senator told him that even Republican senators who will support the president publicly are not enthusiastic about the surge strategy. Five policemen were killed in Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad, a hospital official said on condition of anonymity out of security concerns. Afterward, police opened fire randomly on the area, killing one civilian and wounding two others, the official said. Five civilians died in northern Baghdad, when a bomb planted under a car exploded, police said. Ten people were also injured in the blast, they said. In the al-Bashir area, about 15 miles south of Kirkuk, gunmen attacked a police station and clashes erupted, police Brig. Sarhat Qadir said. Four policemen were killed and two others hurt, he said. Unknown gunmen opened fire on a civilian car in a southwestern section of the capital, killing a man and wounding his son who was riding with him, police said. Police said gunmen opened fire on a minibus in western Baghdad, injuring five civilians including the driver. The victims were two Shiite men and their wives, heading to the Shiite holy city of Najaf, south of the capital, police said. The shooting took place in a predominantly Sunni Muslim neighborhood. Four pedestrians were wounded when a roadside bomb exploded in eastern Baghdad, in the commercial Palestine Street area, police said. The bomb had apparently targeted a U.S. military convoy, but there was no word on any American casualties, they added.
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