US Troops In Iraq Into 2006?

Lt. Gen. Thomas F. Metz, commander of the Army's 3rd Corps, has told reporters American troops would be in Iraq for another troop rotation or even two. At the current pace of a turnover of troops every year, that could mean U.S. forces would be in Iraq until 2006.

Metz made the comments during a visit Friday to U.S. troops in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit.

On Saturday, U.S. forces and Iraqi police raided an area west of Baghdad and arrested 11 people suspected of links to insurgents, witnesses said, following the bloodiest day of attacks against American forces in a month.

Eight men and three women were taken into custody during the raids, which began before dawn around the flashpoint town of Khaldiyah in the "Sunni Triangle" west of Baghdad, according to local residents. The Sunni Muslim areas north and west of Baghdad have been the scene of most attacks against American troops.

The raids took place one day after U.S. forces suffered four deaths in two separate attacks - the bloodiest daily death toll since Sept. 18, when three soldiers were killed in an ambush in Tikrit. Nearly 20 soldiers were reported wounded in several clashes across the country.

The ongoing bloodshed has raised questions about U.S. stewardship of Iraq, especially since the United States has been unable to find any weapons of mass destruction, whose alleged presence in Saddam Hussein's arsenal was cited as the major justification for the war.

With the latest deaths, the number of U.S. soldiers who have died by hostile fire since President Bush declared an end to major combat on May 1 has climbed to 101. A total of 211 soldiers have been killed in fighting and attacks in Iraq since the war began.

In other developments:

  • A new audiotape broadcast by Al-Jazeera on Saturday featured a voice purported to be Osama bin Laden. The voice threatened countries helping the American occupation of Iraq and warned of new suicide attacks "inside and outside" the United States. The speaker also warned Iraqis against cooperating with U.S. forces and urged youth in neighboring nations to join a jihad, or holy war, against the Americans.
  • CBS News reporter Lisa Barron reports Arab satellite TV stations have received a message saying members of Al Qaeda were behind last week's deadly car bombing outside the Baghdad Hotel. The message identifies the driver as a member of an al Qaeda brigade called Abi Hafs Al Masri.
  • A story prepared for Sunday's New York Times says a year-long State Department study predicted many of the problems that have plagued the American-led occupation of Iraq, but the study was largely ignored by Penagon officials until recently, and is now being relied on heavily.
  • Iraq resumed pumping oil through its northern pipeline to Turkey on Saturday, but stopped after two hours because of a leak, Turkish officials said. They said Iraq blamed the leak on technical problems, not sabotage. Officials hoped the flow could resume Sunday.
  • Reporter Barron says U.S. and British forces and Iraqi police have started an operation in southern Iraq against oil smuggling. Much of the oil is being snuck out through the port city of Basra, leading to a loss of oil revenues and needed diesel fuel. So far, reports Barron, there have been 80 arrests, and 24 oil barges, eight oil boats and 50 vehicles have been captured in the crackdown.
  • Barron says Baghdad residents will be free to stay out all night by Oct. 26, when the U.S.-led coalition will completely lift the overnight curfew. Officials cite a decrease in crime and improved secuirty situation. But the coalition has been under intense pressure from local restaurant owners and traders, who want to be able to stay open for business longer.
  • Congressional Republican leaders seem likely to deliver a victory to the president by killing a Senate-passed provision making some Iraqi rebuilding aid approved by the House and Senate Friday a loan, backers and foes of the loan provision say.
  • Eight Marine reservists stationed at Camp Pendleton in California have been charged in connection with the June death of an Iraqi man who was held at a detention facility in Iraq, authorities said. Two of the men face negligent homicide charges.
  • A top Pentagon general apologized to those offended by his statements casting the war on terrorism in religious terms. In a statement, Army Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin said, "I am not anti-Islam or any other religion." The controversial statements Boykin made came in speeches - some made in uniform - at evangelical Christian churches. In several speeches, Boykin said the real enemy was not Osama bin Laden but Satan.
  • In remarks released Saturday by a German magazine, Britain's envoy to Iraq said elections are possible within a year and Iraqi oil production can be increased threefold in five years if the coalition can improve security. "It is clear that we have not yet succeeded in winning the confidence of the people," Jeremy Greenstock told Der Spiegel magazine. "Above all, the security situation in some regions must be urgently improved."
  • South Korea said Saturday it would send additional troops to help U.S. forces rebuild and stabilize Iraq. Seoul did not clarify whether the unspecified number of new troops will be combat or non-combat forces. South Korea sent 675 non-combat troops to Iraq earlier this year.
  • In Baghdad, supporters of firebrand Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr complained that 12 members of the local council in the Sadr City neighborhood were arrested by U.S. and Iraqi forces Thursday. The 80 council members were selected by al-Sadr's forces as a rival to those appointed by the U.S.-led coalition. Coalition spokesman Charles Heatly confirmed the arrests.
  • Dutch marines clearing munitions in the southern al-Muthana province called in British and American weapons inspectors after finding "a few dozen suspect shells," a Defense Ministry spokesman in the Netherlands said Saturday. The 130-mm artillery shells found Oct. 8 showed "several indications of some kind of chemical reaction," a Dutch spokesman said, although he added they could be regular munitions discolored by the heat and sun.

    The four American deaths suffered Friday included Lt. Col. Kim S. Orlando, 43, the highest-ranking Army officer killed by hostile fire since the Iraq war started on March 20, said Maj. Steve Stover, an Army spokesman at the Pentagon. Orlando was commander of the 716th Military Police Battalion.

    Three of the soldiers, including Orlando, were killed after a joint U.S.-Iraqi patrol confronted gunmen outside the headquarters of a Shiite Muslim cleric in the holy city of Karbala, 50 miles south of Baghdad. Ten 10 Iraqis were also killed, including two Iraqi policemen, U.S. and Iraqi sources said.

    Another American soldier was killed and two were wounded by a roadside bomb Friday near Baghdad, and nine U.S. troops were wounded in a roadside bombing in the northern city of Mosul.

    The other two killed in the clash in Karbala were Staff Sgt. Joseph P. Bellavia, 28, of Wakefield, Massachusetts.; and Cpl. Sean R. Grilley, 24, of San Bernardino, California, according to a statement by Fort Campbell, Kentucky. The name of the soldier killed in the Baghdad area was not released.

    The bloody battle in Karbala took place intermittently over a 12-hour period starting about midnight on Thursday. It underscores the dangers of trying to disarm militias maintained by Shiite clerics who wield considerable influence in Iraq's largest religious group. The U.S.-led coalition has banned private militias and is committed to disarming them.

    Pentagon officials said they were investigating how the shooting began. Iraqis insisted the Americans fired first.

    Most of the violence directed against Americans has come from the minority Sunni Muslim community, which formed the base of Saddam's regime. The spread of anti-American violence into the Shiite community, which comprises about 60 percent of Iraq's 25 million people, would present a grave challenge to the United States as it strives to restore order and establish a functioning democracy.