Iraq's interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi is accusing the United States and its coalition partners of being partly to blame for Saturday's deadly ambush of dozens of Iraqi soldiers. US defense officials are rejecting that charge but are looking into why the soldiers did not have adequate protection, and whether this and other recent attacks suggest insurgents have infiltrated Iraq's security forces.
Prime Minister Allawi Tuesday blamed U-S led forces in Iraq for failing to provide the security needed to protect the newly trained Iraqi soldiers. Nearly 50 unarmed Iraqi national guardsmen were headed for home leave when they were killed execution style Saturday in a remote region near the Iranian border
"I think a large amount of negligence by some of the multi-national forces is involved," he said. An investigation into the matter is underway.
A group believed headed by accused Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi claimed responsibility for what was one of the deadliest ambushes since the start of the Iraqi insurgency.
Prime Minister Allawi did not say exactly why he believes international troops bear some of the blame. But his unusually strong comments taking aim at the coalition immediately set him at odds with the U.S. military, which quickly refuted his charges. "This was a cold-blooded and systematic massacre by terrorists. They and no one else must be held fully accountable for these heinous acts," said Lieutenant Colonel Steven Boylan, a spokesman for U.S. forces in Baghdad.
The investigation into the massacre is also looking into why the Iraqi soldiers were left unprotected, and whether, as Iraq's interim government and the U.S. military suspects, insurgents have now infiltrated the ranks of the country's newly trained security forces. "The investigation is going to seek to determine whether inside information was obtained on the movement of troops and why the troops were travelling both unarmed and without an armed escort," he said.
The timing of some recent attacks has led U.S. and Iraqi officials to suspect insurgents have infiltrated the newly trained Iraqi military. U.S. military officials also point to the fact that during battles against insurgents earlier this year, a significant number of American trained Iraqi forces switched sides and fought with rebels.
Despite the setbacks, the United States and its coalition partners are counting on having about 150-thousand Iraqi forces fully equipped and trained in time for elections in January, while warning that violence and terrorist attacks are likely to get worse in the run up to the vote.