Putting Iraqis In The Lead


On a day when President Bush admitted he underestimated the internal security threat in Iraq, bombings and other attacks killed at least 25 Iraqis. CBS News correspondent Kimberley Dozier talked with America's top general in Iraq on his strategy for ending the bloodshed.

One car bomb was still smoking, drawing rescuers and people, when another one went off. By the end of the day, there had been seven bombings in all. Separately, dozens of bodies were found — many of the would-be police recruits, all executed. It's the kind of violence that leaves Iraqis and Americans asking: When will it end?

Gen. George W. Casey took CBS News along as he briefed top commanders on his strategy for stopping the bloodshed — by putting Iraqis firmly in the lead, even though some critics say the Iraqis aren't up to the task.

Casey said the critics are wrong.

"I don't buy that at all," he said of the contention that the Iraqis aren't ready for the job. "Even though we might be more capable militarily, when Iraqis go in and work with other Iraqis, the result is longer lasting."

Even if doing so means more bloodshed?

"I don't know that it necessarily has to be bloodier," he added. "I don't expect it will be entirely bloodless, but I don't expect it will be a bloodbath, either."

Some of the political leaders in the government have been accused of also leading these militias. Isn't this, in a sense, "putting the fox in charge of the henhouse?" Dozier asked.

"It could be, if that was true," said Gen. Casey. "I know the ministry of (the) interior is someone who has been mentioned. I don't particularly believe that. But I do believe there are people within some of the government organizations, at a lower level, that do have contacts with militia — and that makes it a very difficult challenge for everyone in the leadership."

On the ground in Baghdad's troubled Doura neighborhood, the 21st Military Police are trying to put that into action.

"At the point where I see them going into areas by themselves, we pull back," said a U.S. commander, "because we've done our job. They're able to go out there on their own."

That doesn't mean the U.S. troops are leaving everything to the Iraqis. If they see suspicious armed groups, the Americans check it out. But Gen. Casey says his men won't play sheriff on these streets forever.

"I don't think we're the only ones here that can do that," he said. "In fact, I know we're not."

For now, though, the Iraqis are not ready to do it without them.