U.S. Fails To Curb Baghdad Violence

The wreckage of a car bombing in Baghdad, Oct. 19, 2006
The 2-month old joint U.S.-Iraqi bid to crush violence in the Iraqi capital "has not met our overall expectations," as attacks in Baghdad rose by 22 percent in the first three weeks of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the U.S. military spokesman said on Thursday.

Despite that 22 percent, General William Caldwell insisted violence and progress exist side by side, rattling off statistics such as more that 700 weapons caches discovered since July.

But the fact that the insurgency can take loses like that and still step up its attacks against American troops in what it believed to be an attempt to influence the November elections in the United States is also a measure of its strength and resilience, reports CBS News national security correspondent David Martin.

"The enemy knows that killing innocent people and Americans will garner headlines and create a sense of frustration," Caldwell said.

The spike in violence during the month of fasting was "disheartening" and the Americans were now working with Iraqi authorities to "refocus" security measures, Caldwell said.

"In Baghdad, Operation Together Forward has made a difference in the focus areas but has not met our overall expectations in sustaining a reduction in the level of violence," Caldwell said at a weekly news briefing.

Meanwhile, the White House is emphatically rejecting two proposals aimed at ending the war in Iraq. Press Secretary Tony Snow says the idea of dividing Iraq into Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish regions is a "non-starter." He also says a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops — perhaps by five percent every two months — is not under consideration. "You withdraw when you win," Snow said.

Snow was commenting on ideas reportedly being looked at by a blue-ribbon panel chaired by former Secretary of State James Baker. The commission is to report its findings after the elections. But Baker has said there are alternatives other than "stay the course and cut and run."

In other developments:

  • Military doctors say it's become common practice to recycle soldiers with mental disorders back into combat, reports CBS News correspondent Sharon Alfonsi. One study estimates that about 16 percent of soldiers returning from Iraq have PTSD. But military officials say they don't keep tabs on how many troops still fighting have been diagnosed.
  • Iraq's prime minister says Saddam Hussein's execution would help undermine the insurgency, as the ex-president's genocide trial heard more testimony Thursday of poison gas attacks on Kurdish villages two decades ago. "Definitely, with his execution, those betting on returning to power under the banner of Saddam and the Baath (Party) will lose," Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told reporters Wednesday in Najaf.
  • Two more U.S. soldiers were killed in combat, one in restive Anbar province and a second near Balad, the U.S. military reported Thursday. The deaths raised the American toll for October to 72, putting the month on course to be the bloodiest month for U.S. forces in nearly two years.
  • With U.S. troop levels stuck at 140,000 and no end in sight to the war, the Marines have decided they will have to activate 600-man reserve combat battalions and send them back for a second tour in Iraq, reports CBS News national security correspondent David Martin. It will be the first time a reserve combat unit has had to go back a second time and it's one more sign of the stress the military is under.
  • The family of the murdered chief of police intelligence in the southern Maysan province struck back Thursday against his suspected killers, kidnapping the teenage brother of a local militia commander and vowing not to free him unless the culprits turned over, police said. The showdown between the two Shiite militias has the potential to develop into an all-out conflict between the heavily armed groups.

    The gloomy assessment of the Baghdad operation, which was set in motion with the deployment of an extra 12,000 U.S. and Iraqi troops on Aug. 7, was issued at a time of perceived tension between the U.S. military and administration and the nearly five-month-old government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

    Caldwell said, for example, that U.S. forces had been forced to release a captured top organizer for radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr on Wednesday, a day after he was detained on suspicion of "illegal" activities.

    He said Mazin al-Sa'edi, a top organizer with the Sadr Movement political party in western Baghdad, was set free on the demand of al-Maliki. Al-Sa'edi had been detained along with five of his aides for suspected involvement in Shiite militant violence.