U.S. Commanders Talking With Militants

Lt. Gen Ray Odierno,Iraq, Camp Victory, January 13, 2007
The U.S. military is working more aggressively to forge cease-fires with Iraqi militants and quell the violence around Baghdad, judging that 80 percent of enemy combatants are "reconcilable," a top U.S. commander said Thursday.

However, Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno also warned that he may not be able to make a full assessment of the situation in Iraq by September, as demanded by lawmakers.

And as American troops move into new parts of the country, they're suffering higher casualties as they run into deeply-buried, impossible to see explosive devices — the infamous IEDs, reports CBS News national security correspondent David Martin.

Odierno, the No. 2 U.S. commander in Iraq, told Pentagon reporters by videoconference that he is pressing his military officers to reach out to the tribes, to some small insurgent groups and to religious and political leaders to push them to stop the violence.

"We are talking about cease-fires, and maybe signing some things that say they won't conduct operations against the government of Iraq or against coalition forces," Odierno said from Camp Victory in Baghdad. "We believe a large majority of groups within Iraq are reconcilable and are now interested in engaging with us. But more importantly, they want to engage and become a part of the government of Iraq."

Stemming the violence in and around the capital city is key to giving the Iraqi government time to stabilize and move toward reconciliation with the warring sectarian factions. That would then allow the United States to begin withdrawing troops.

U.S. military officers tell CBS News the troop surge, which has now reached full strength, stands no chance of succeeding by September.

That's the critical month Gen. David Petraeus, the American commander in Iraq, is scheduled to report to Congress, reports Martin. Petraeus wants to deliver the report before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins on Sept. 13.

That's because Ramadan usually brings a spike in violence that would make it harder for Plateaus to claim even modest progress, adds Martin.

Odierno said he believes that about 80 percent of the enemy fighters, including key Sunni insurgent groups and Shiite militia, could be brought into the political process. The remainder, he said, are largely al Qaeda operatives who will have to captured or killed.

He cautioned that the process will be slow. And he repeatedly warned that he may need more time to determine if the military buildup ordered by President Bush earlier this year has begun to work.

He said he will provide his report in September as required.

In other developments:

  • A suicide bomber hit a police recruiting center in Fallujah on Wednesday, killing at least 25 people and wounding 50, police said. Ten policemen were among the dead in the attack, according to a police official. Police said the bomber detonated his explosives vest at the third of four checkpoints as he stood among recruits who were lining up to apply for jobs on the force. The center had only been opened on Saturday in a primary school in eastern Fallujah.
  • The aggressive search for five kidnapped British citizens continued around Baghdad, but a Pentagon spokesman acknowledged that the hunt for two U.S. soldiers missing since an ambush on May 12 has slowed down. The troops were ambushed south of Baghdad nearly three weeks ago. Four soldiers were killed in the initial attack and the body of a third kidnapped soldier was found days later. Brigadier General Perry Wiggins says there has been a side benefit to the search: Patrols have uncovered weapons caches and bomb-making facilities.
  • The U.S. military late Wednesday reported the deaths of three more soldiers, two killed in a roadside bombing and one who died of a non-combat cause. The bombing victims died Wednesday, the third soldier on Tuesday. Their deaths raised to 119 the number of soldiers killed this month, the third-deadliest month of the war for U.S. troops.
  • Turkey's military massed more troops and tanks on the border with Iraq on Thursday as the country's military chief said he was ready to stage a cross-border offensive to fight Kurdish guerrillas. Gen. Yasar Buyukanite said he had already sought government approval to mount military action. He complained about what he said was a lack of help from allies in fighting the Kurds as Turkish leaders publicly asked the United States and Iraq to destroy and scatter rebel bases inside Iraq.
  • Police, Iraqi military, hospital and morgue officials reported a total of 72 people killed or found dead nationwide Wednesday.