Reality Check: Baghdad Troop Surge

An US soldier stands guard in Sadr City, a predominately-Shiite Baghdad suburb, March 13, 2007. US and Iraqi troops today pushed on with an intensive drive to secure Baghdad as the White House confirmed a possible pullout of US soldiers from Iraq if its "surge" strategy fails.
Getty Images/Wissam Al-Okaili
The Baghdad security plan involves a lot more than just Baghdad.

Many of the 21,000 combat troops surging into Iraq are being sent to attack insurgent strongholds north of Baghdad.

That's what soldiers from the 82nd Airborne were doing when suicide truck bombers struck their outpost earlier this week, killing nine.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said it's a consequence of the crackdown in Baghdad.

"We wish to God it hadn't happened. But at the same time, I think that it is not unexpected that we will see these kinds of attacks as they try to prevent the Baghdad security plan from being successful," Gates said.

The surge is still weeks away from reaching full strength, but with more U.S. troops conducting more patrols, American deaths are already 50 percent higher than the same period last year, CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reports.

Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, says sectarian killings — Iraqis killing Iraqis — are down. But car bombings are up, and so is the overall number of deaths.

"It's as though the violence had been squeezed out of central Baghdad and forced into other areas of Iraq," said Steven Simon of the Council of Foreign Relations.

Petraeus is said to believe the surge will have to continue into next year. His two biggest worries are the ability of al Qaeda to undo the security plan with mass casualty attacks.

And — linchpin of the entire plan — the willingness of Iraqi's Shiite and Sunni factions to meet benchmarks for political compromises.

One official says flatly "that ain't happening, and I don't see it happening anytime soon."

So even if the troop surge succeeds in reducing violence, the plan to save Iraq could still fail.