The U.S. military says all 20,000 additional combat troops President Bush ordered to Iraq in January have now arrived, with the last unit set to be fully operational in a couple of weeks. VOA's Al Pessin reports from the Pentagon officials say the increased tempo of U.S. military operations in Iraq is responsible for some progress toward establishing security in Baghdad, but also for the high U.S. death toll this month.
As of late Wednesday, the Pentagon reports that 115 U.S. troops have been killed so far in Iraq in May, with one more day left to go, making the month one of the deadliest of the war for U.S. forces. "It's been a tough month," said Brigadier General Perry Wiggins.
At a Pentagon news conference, General Wiggins said the greater risks of the new Baghdad Security Plan were known in advance, and he said the increased presence of U.S. troops in the city's neighborhoods is creating progress, as well as casualties. "We're moving into places where we haven't been, not necessarily (ever) before but we haven't been and stayed with the frequency that we're staying in these areas now. And there are some areas where, in the past, the enemy elected to just move on out, wait until we departed and come back in. In this particular case, they're finding that harder to do," he said.
General Wiggins said commanders are "starting to see a shift of momentum" with more support from ordinary Iraqis and a 50 percent decrease in insurgent attacks in western al-Anbar Province. But he also acknowledged what he called a slight increase in attacks in Baghdad. He could not immediately provide specific figures for either location, but the general said insurgents continue to be able to carry out dramatic, large-scale bombing attacks, and also to hit U.S. and Iraqi targets with smaller bombs.
The general charged that Iranian operatives are providing technology and training to some Iraqi insurgents, and that some of the training is done by the elite Iranian Quds Force inside Iraq. But he said the U.S. military still has not determined which, if any, senior Iranian officials are behind the effort.