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US Troop Casualties in Iraq Continue to Mount

The number of American troops killed in Iraq this month continues to rise, reaching the highest monthly total in a year. U.S. military authorities say the most recent casualties occurred in Anbar province, as troops continue an offensive aimed at returning the city of Ramadi to Iraqi control. The rising death toll is spurring growing dissatisfaction with the way the Bush administration is handling the war.

As the fighting continues, American casualties are mounting -- making October the deadliest month for American soldiers in a year.

Television reports portraying those who have fallen -- such as Army Sergeant Will Mock -- bring the war home to Americans. Ann Mock recalls her son. "He kept saying, 'I will do you proud, Momma. I won't fail you'. You're not failing me, you're not failing me, baby."

Polls show most Americans are opposed to the way the Bush administration is handling the war.

And calls for a timetable to pull the troops out are coming more frequently from prominent Democrats such as Senator Charles Schumer as the mid-term election approaches. "We're certainly not winning the war in Iraq. We seem to be policing a civil war. That is not what the American people bargained for."

President Bush has said he is urging Iraqi leaders to take measures to end sectarian violence -- and spoke repeatedly at a news conference Wednesday about benchmarks to be met. However, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has said his government will not bend to specific deadlines.

On Thursday, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told reporters there has been no attempt to impose mandatory benchmarks in discussions between U.S. and Iraqi officials. "They then discuss, well, when might something happen. It isn't a date, and it isn't a penalty if it doesn't. I mean you're trying to add a degree of formality and finality and punishment to something. That is not what this is about. This is complicated stuff, it's difficult. We're looking out into the future."

But the continuing violence has heightened criticism that Iraqi security forces are not up to the job because they have not been able to restore calm.

At his Thursday news conference, Rumsfeld dismissed this. "The Iraqi security force training program that we have laid out has been proceeding in an orderly, reasonable way. We have projections that we have released to the Congress every month or two or three. We show them what we think we're going to have in the way of training and equipping. It's all laid out there, we think it's working; they're doing a good job. When we said they would handle security for the bulk of the security for the last election, they did."

But at least in Baghdad, where much of the violence is occurring, it is U.S. soldiers who are at the forefront.