WASHINGTON – The U.S. and Iraq are moving thousands of troops into Baghdad to bolster Iraq’s war-weary capital in what the White House suggests is an acknowledgment that the six-week U.S.-Iraqi security offensive is not working.
President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki are to discuss details of the new plan today at the White House, al-Maliki’s first visit to the United States since taking office two months ago.
Some U.S. officials said it entails bringing more U.S. troops into Baghdad from elsewhere in Iraq.
A senior Defense Department official said the remainder of a backup force that had been stationed in Kuwait, the 2nd Brigade of the 1st Armored Division, was also heading into Iraq. Some U.S. military police companies are being shifted to Baghdad, involving between 500 and 1,000 troops, as well as a cavalry squadron and a battalion of field artillery troops, said the official, who requested anonymity because the plan has yet to be made public.
In addition, the official said, at least two Iraqi military brigades will be brought into Baghdad from other parts of the country. Forces are being shifted to meet changing security demands in different neighborhoods “to face the enemy where we think he is,” the official said.
There are generally about 3,500 troops in a brigade, and more than 800 in a battalion. Currently about 30,000 of the 127,000 U.S. troops in Iraq are in Baghdad.
Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said earlier this month that al-Qaida had increased its killings in Baghdad to show it remains a force to be reckoned with after the June 7 killing of its leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
U.S. and Iraqi forces conducted 19 operations last week targeting death squads, said U.S. spokesman Maj. Gen. William Caldwell. All but two were in Baghdad, he said.
“Clearly Baghdad is the center that everybody is fighting for,” Caldwell said. “We will do whatever it takes to bring security to Baghdad.”
In Iraq on Monday, two U.S. soldiers from the 1st Armored Division were killed in Anbar province, the U.S. military said. Also, a soldier died Monday from small-arms fire south of Baghdad.
Also Monday, the city morgue in Kut, a mostly Shiite city southeast of Baghdad, reported receiving 19 bodies – blindfolded and some showing signs of torture. They were believed to be victims of death squads, city officials said.