U.S. Military Reports 9 Deaths In Iraq
Monday, September 10th 2007, 7:46 pm
By: News On 6
BAGHDAD (AP) _ The U.S. military reported the deaths of nine soldiers Monday _ including seven killed in a vehicle accident _ and Iraq's prime minister said the nation's armed forces were not ready to fight without American help.
The statements _ more Pentagon death notices and appeals for more time from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki _ echoed some of the key struggles in Washington as lawmakers began long-awaited hearings on U.S. strategies in Iraq.
Among the core issues is whether Iraq's leadership is moving fast enough at political reconciliation and assuming security responsibilities while U.S. troop deaths have risen to at least 3,772 in the 4 1/2-year war.
Al-Maliki told Iraq's parliament that the American military is still needed despite what he described as a sharp drop in violence in the Baghdad area since President Bush ordered nearly 30,000 extra troops to Iraq this year.
``We still need more efforts and time in order for our armed forces to be able to take over security in all Iraqi provinces from the multinational forces that helped us a great deal in fighting terrorism and outlaws,'' al-Maliki said just hours before U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker and top commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, began their statements on Capitol Hill.
Petraeus said he envisions gradually scaling back the U.S. troop strength in Iraq to about 130,00 by next summer _ roughly the number before the U.S. surge earlier this year.
In western Baghdad, seven U.S. soldiers were killed in a vehicle accident that also claimed the lives of two detainees, the military said. Eleven soldiers from Multinational Division-Baghdad and one detainee were also injured in the west Baghdad accident, the military said without giving further details. The U.S. statement made no mention of hostile fire and did not specify the neighborhood.
A U.S. spokesman, Lt. Col. Scott Bleichwehl, said all the victims were traveling in the same vehicle.
Another U.S. soldier was killed and two were injured when their vehicle overturned east of the capital, the military said in a statement. The military also said a soldier died Sunday of wounds suffered in fighting near Kirkuk in northern Iraq.
Al-Maliki, a Shiite, said violence had dropped 75 percent in the Baghdad area since stepped-up military operations began in the capital Feb. 14 _ although he offered no detailed figures. He also said his government had kept the country from descending into all-out Sunni-Shiite civil war after the wave of sectarian bloodletting last year.
A tally of civilian deaths compiled by The Associated Press showed a less dramatic drop in the Baghdad area _ from 1,148 in February to 669 in August. The overall level of civilian deaths around the country, however, remained relatively steady during the period as violence shifted to other regions, according to the AP figures, based on government, police and hospital records.
In his address to parliament, al-Maliki said his Cabinet had finalized a draft bill to allow thousands of former Saddam Hussein supporters to serve in government posts _ a major demand of the Sunnis and one of the 18 benchmarks demanded by Washington.
Sunni politicians acknowledged that Iraq's security forces were not ready to defend the country on their own, but challenged al-Maliki's statements that life was improving.
``Al-Maliki was talking about the illusion of improvement in the security situation,'' Sunni lawmaker Mohammed al-Dayni. ``This is just talk ... All streets are blocked with concrete walls and barbed wires ... You can see only few people in the streets. People are living a confused and abnormal life.''
Salim Abdullah al-Jubouri, spokesman for the main Sunni bloc in parliament, said the ``real solution'' to the Iraq crisis was a ``fundamental change in the political process,'' dominated by Shiite religious parties and their Kurdish allies.
Such views appear to be shared by a large number of Iraqis, according to a poll released Monday by ABC News, Britain's BBC, and Japan's public broadcaster NHK. The poll found that 47 percent of those surveyed want U.S. forces and their coalition allies to leave the country immediately and only 39 percent said their lives were going well. Only 25 percent said their own communities have become safer in the past half year.
The poll was conducted August 17 to 24 with 2,212 randomly chosen adult Iraqis from across the country. The poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.
``Things have improved in one respect only,'' said Qassim Uraibi, a baker from the Shiite enclave of Sadr City. ``We have fewer bombs, but everything else is going from bad to worse.''
Mustapha Abdul-Razak, a Sunni and retired army officer in Saddam's regime, called the testimony in Washington nothing more than ``empty talk.''
``It will not change anything,'' he said. ``The Americans are experimenting with our lives.''
As politicians spoke of reconciliation, the bloodletting continued.
In the north, a suicide car bomber killed eight people and injured 20 others in an attack near an Iraqi army headquarters near Tall Afar, 260 miles northwest of Baghdad, the local mayor Nam Abdullah said.
Also Monday, U.S. and Iraqi troops killed three civilians during a raid in Sadr City, police and residents said.
Bleichwehl, the military spokesman, said the raid targeted a suspected Shiite extremist who eluded capture. He said there were no reports of civilian or military casualties.
But residents showed AP Television News the coffins of the people they said were killed in the raid _ a woman and her two daughters. A police officer, speaking on condition of anonymity for security reasons, confirmed they were killed in the firefight.
In Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad, U.S. and Iraqi troops killed 12 insurgents in a morning attack, the U.S. said. Three American soldiers were wounded.