Two Top Papers: New U.S. Offensives in Iraq Faltering

By: E&P Staff Front-page reports in the Saturday editions of The New York Times and The Washington Post by two of the leading writers on the war cast grave doubts on the likely success of the two major U.S. military operations in Iraq. One relates to the latest effort to secure Baghdad, the other to the new drive in Baquba.

Meanwhile, eight American servicemen were reported today to have been killed in Iraq, bringing the four-day death toll to at least 25.

The Post's Thomas Ricks tackles the first military plan: "The major U.S. offensive launched last weekend against insurgents in and around Baghdad...has renewed concerns about whether even the bigger U.S. troop presence there is large enough.

"As the U.S. offensive, code-named Phantom Thunder, has been greeted with a week of intensified fighting in areas outside the capital -- areas that the U.S. military has largely left untouched for as long as three years -- the push raised fears from security experts and officers in the field that the new attacks might simply propel the enemy from one area to another where there are not as many U.S. troops....

"Retired Army Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey, who in 2003 was among the first to call public attention to the relatively small size of the U.S. invasion force, said that the new operation shows how outnumbered U.S. troops remain. 'Why would we think that a temporary presence of 30,000 additional combat troops in a giant city would change the dynamics of a bitter civil war?' he said in an interview yesterday. 'It's a fool's errand.'

"An officer working in Arrowhead Ripper, the subsidiary offensive in Diyala province, said wearily, 'We just do not have the forces in country right now to have the appropriate level of presence across the country.'"

The rest of the piece is at

Meanwhile, at The New York Times, John Burns offers this assessment: "The operational commander of troops battling to drive fighters with Al Qaeda from Baquba said Friday that 80 percent of the top Qaeda leaders in the city fled before the American-led offensive began earlier this week. He compared their flight with the escape of Qaeda leaders from Falluja ahead of an American offensive that recaptured that city in 2004.

"In an otherwise upbeat assessment, Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the second-ranking American commander in Iraq, told reporters that leaders of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia had been alerted to the Baquba offensive by widespread public discussion of the American plan to clear the city before the attack began. He portrayed the Qaeda leaders? escape as cowardice, saying that 'when the fight comes, they leave,' abandoning 'midlevel' Qaeda leaders and fighters to face the might of American troops ? just, he said, as they did in Falluja.

"Some American officers in Baquba have placed blame for the Qaeda leaders? flight on public remarks about the offensive in the days before it began by top American commanders, including Gen. David H. Petraeus, the overall commander in Iraq. But General Odierno cast the issue in broader terms, saying Qaeda leaders were bound to know an attack was coming in light of President Bush?s decision to pour nearly 30,000 additional troops into the fight in a bid to secure Baghdad and areas around the capital that have been insurgent strongholds. That included Baquba, which lies 40 miles north."

The rest of the article is at


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