Wednesday, November 29, 2006

U.S. moving up to 2,700 troops into Baghdad

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In an effort to restore security in Baghdad, the U.S. military plans to move at least three more battalions of American soldiers into the Iraqi capital, a senior Pentagon official said.

Between 500 and 900 troops are in an Army battalion, but the Pentagon official could not give the exact number of troops involved in the movements.

The official said the troops will not include Marines based in Sunni-dominated Anbar province, where troops and insurgents have been fighting along the Euphrates River corridor. Instead, the official said, the troops will be moved from more peaceful regions, such as northern Iraq.

The troop shifts won't require an increase in forces in the country, the official said.

Some troops are in the Baghdad area but will be moved closer into the city.

As sectarian violence rages in parts of Iraq, securing Baghdad has been the top priority in the U.S. strategy to bring democracy to the country.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's government hasn't been able to devise an effective strategy to stem the Sunni-Shiite violence that some observers say has plunged Iraq into civil war.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, speaking at meeting of business leaders in Dubai on Wednesday, said Iraq's violence meets the standard of a "civil war." (Full story)

President Bush this week refused to debate whether Iraq was experiencing civil war. He called the latest violence "part of a pattern" of attacks by al Qaeda in Iraq to divide Shiites and Sunnis. (Full story)

President Bush was in Amman, Jordan, on Wednesday for a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, but the talks were put off after public disclosure of U.S. doubts about his capacity to control sectarian warfare. The two are scheduled to meet Thursday, the White House said. (Full story)

Al-Maliki's his political standing weakened when allies of cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, a key Shiite supporter of al-Maliki's government, said Wednesday they were stopping their participation as Cabinet ministers and members of parliament. (Full story)

Other developments

The Pentagon on Wednesday released the identity of the missing flier whose F-16 crashed near Baghdad on Monday. He is Maj. Troy L. Gilbert, who is listed as duty status whereabouts unknown. It said Gilbert is assigned to the 309th Fighter Squadron, Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. (Watch why military thinks pilot killed in crash )

The Iraq Study Group, the bipartisan panel assessing U.S. policies in the war in Iraq, will issue its report next Wednesday, a source told CNN. The report, prepared at the urging of Congress, is expected to include recommendations that will help the Bush administration deal with the conflict.

Fighting Wednesday between coalition forces and insurgents shut down the city of Baquba, killing scores of militants and civilians, The Associated Press reported. (Full story)


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