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A retired American general is admitting what President George W. Bush will not.
Southern Iraq is out of control and getting worse and there appears little the military can do about it.
As the war escalates and the White House continues to claim otherwise, the death toll mounts and the situation becomes more and more hopeless.
Yet Bush stubbornly sticks to his failed Iraq strategy and shows no sign of bending to the will of the American people or the face of reality.
Reports the French news agency AFP:
The United States is frustrated at the deteriorating security situation in southern Iraq, a retired senior US general said Wednesday amid continued talk about a British pull-out from the region.
In an interview on BBC radio, General Jack Keane, a former vice-chief of staff of the US Army, agreed with recent media reports that Washington was dissatisfied at the increased violence in and around the port city of Basra.
“There is some frustration with the troops being out at the airport primarily training the Iraqi 10th division and not as engaged as they had been in the past in what is taking place in central Basra and the surrounding communities,” said Keane, who was an adviser to the US Iraq Study Group.
“They have never had enough forces to truly protect the people, a mission similar to what the coalition forces are taking on in Baghdad. But I think there is a general disengagement from what the key issues are around Basra.
“I would imagine that’s where the source of frustration is.”
Britain has about 5,500 troops currently based at Basra Airport and Basra Palace, although the small contingent at the latter is due to move out within weeks.
There are plans to reduce numbers by 500 in the coming months but Prime Minister Gordon Brown has resisted calls for an immediate withdrawal.
Brown is expected to make a statement on British involvement in Iraq when parliament returns in October and after a report by US General David Petraeus to Congress in Washington on the progress of this year’s US troop “surge”.
The surge saw 30,000 extra US troops sent to Iraq from January to quell bloody sectarian violence in and around Baghdad.
Many British newspapers in recent weeks have focused on the increasing number of daily mortar attacks on Basra airport, amid concern at mounting British death and casualty rates.
They have also carried anonymous quotes attributed to US officials expressing concern at the situation in the south.
Keane, who recently returned from Iraq, suggested that there was a case to say that neither the British nor the Americans have had sufficient troops in the troubled Gulf state to be effective.
Asked whether that was a military or political failure, he said it was a combination of both as well as a general lack of ground troops to face the challenges of the 21st century.
US military commanders were keen to avoid sending reinforcements to Basra but that was a possibility if the security situation did not improve if and when the British pulled out, he added.
And while Bush offers discredited claims of progress, Iraqis continue to die.
Reports The New York Times:
One week after a series of truck bombs hit two poor villages near the Syrian border, the known casualty toll has soared to more than 500 dead and 1,500 wounded, according to the Iraqi Red Crescent Society, making them by far the worst coordinated attacks since the American-led invasion.
Dr. Said Hakki, director of the society, said Tuesday that local Red Crescent workers registering families for aid after the explosions in Qahtaniya and Jazeera had compiled the new numbers, which dwarf the earlier estimates that at least 250 people were killed.
The toll, Dr. Hakki said, may yet rise further. Among the wounded, one in five suffered serious injuries, such as head, chest or stomach damage, and emergency workers continuing to drag bodies from site’s dusty rubble.
Statistical certainty can be difficult to obtain after major bomb attacks. But the Red Crescent figures align with earlier estimates by hospital officials and track with the typical ratio of dead to wounded in Iraq’s largest bomb attacks.
With these figures, the bombing would be the deadliest coordinated assault since the American-led invasion in 2003 by a factor of nearly three. In July, about 155 people died in a massive explosion in the northern town of Amerli; a similar number were killed in series of bombings and mortar attacks in the Sadr City neighborhood of Baghdad last November, and about 152 died in Tal Afar last month from a double truck bombing.
In the area of last week’s attack, the struggle to cope continued to ripple through the desert towns dominated by Yazidis, a clannish Kurdish-speaking sect whose faith combines Islamic teachings with other ancient religions. Many families of the wounded were so shaken by the attack that they insisted on taking their badly broken relatives back to their villages, where they felt they would be safer.