U.S. military commanders are playing down a military report that says the Baghdad security operation is moving more slowly than expected, with American and Iraqi forces now in control of about one third of Baghdad's neighborhoods. VOA's Barry Newhouse reports from northern Iraq that commanders say it is still too early to assess the security operation, now in its third month.
The report says U.S. and Iraqi forces are able to protect citizens and maintain influence over 146 of Baghdad's 457 neighborhoods. In other neighborhoods, US and Iraqi troops are still rooting out enemy fighters, or trying to disrupt insurgent operations before clearing can begin.
U.S. military officials say the report is an internal assessment tool and is not meant as a review of the effectiveness of the security operation. They say they expect to start seeing results from the operation later this summer.
U.S. Army Colonel Bryan Roberts commands U.S. forces in western Baghdad's al Karkh district, where he says Iraqi and American troops have succeeded in providing security for the district's 250,000 people.
In a televised press conference from Baghdad Tuesday, he attributed the success to the competence of the Iraqi commander he works with.
"I think this success that we're achieving right now will be long-term, it's depending largely on the Iraqi security forces who have stepped up to the plate and are performing quite nicely," said Colonel Roberts.
The military report says the Baghdad security operation has been slowed by Iraqi forces who have been unable to maintain security in cleared neighborhoods. The report says some Iraqi units lack sufficient manpower or have sectarian loyalties.
U.S. forces have had to revisit cleared neighborhoods to root out militants.
American commanders have warned of more U.S. casualties as troops clear Baghdad's insurgent-held neighborhoods. The 122 American troop deaths in May were the highest monthly tally in two years.
Iraqi casualties have also mounted as the security operation continues. The Iraqi government reported nearly 2,000 Iraqi civilians were killed in May, an increase of some 30 percent since April.