Only a quarter of the Iraqi army forces that had been designated more than a month ago to work on security improvements in the capital have...
BAGHDAD, Iraq — Only a quarter of the Iraqi army forces that had been designated more than a month ago to work on security improvements in the capital have arrived, a sign of continuing problems with Iraq’s ability to command and move its troops.
U.S. Army Maj. Gen. James Thurman, who is in charge of military forces in Baghdad, said Friday that he had requested 4,000 additional Iraqi troops to help secure Baghdad but had received only 1,000.
“Some of these battalions, when they were formed, were formed regionally,” Thurman said in Baghdad. “And some of the soldiers, due to the distance, did not want to travel into Baghdad.”
Violence continued across Iraq Friday and today, including execution-style slayings of nine Sunni Arabs dragged out of a wedding dinner east of Baghdad by men said to be wearing Iraqi soldiers’ uniforms.
Police told Reuters an explosion today killed 26 people and wounded 24 others in Baghdad’s Sadr City neighborhood.
The explosion came as Iraq’s Sunnis observed the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
On Friday, 27 bodies were discovered in Baghdad. At least 15 other people — including a U.S. soldier who was killed by a roadside bomb in the capital — were killed elsewhere in Iraq.
As of Friday, at least 2,696 members of the U.S. military have died in the Iraq war, according to an Associated Press count.
Even as the killings continued, Iraq’s president, Jalal Talabani, addressed the U.N. General Assembly, saying a continued U.S. troop presence in Iraq was “essential” while the nation builds its armed forces. While in the United States, Talabani met with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other foreign ministers to urge them to fulfill billions of dollars in reconstruction-aid pledges.
After establishment of the permanent Iraqi government in May, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced a Baghdad security plan to control the sectarian violence that had destabilized the capital. But in July, U.S. officials announced that despite the stepped-up measures, violence had worsened.
In August, U.S. and Iraqi officials announced a plan to secure the capital and said they would bring the 4,000 Iraqi soldiers and 4,000 additional Americans into Baghdad.
But Thurman made clear on Friday that bringing in the Iraqi soldiers had proved difficult. Soldiers from the 1st Brigade of the 9th Division of the Iraqi army had been moved from Taji within 72 hours, Thurman said. But getting the rest of the force had proved more challenging, with soldiers refusing to relocate to Baghdad.
Iraqi units have refused deployments before, sometimes complaining of the travel involved, but other times expressing concerns that they would face uncomfortable sectarian confrontations.
In August, 100 Iraqi soldiers in southern Maysan province refused to redeploy to Baghdad. U.S. officials said the unit’s Shiite leaders thought the troops were needed in Maysan. They also did not want to be sent to Baghdad, where they believed they would need to fight Shiite militias.
U.S. officials also said Kurdish units had refused to be redeployed from northern Iraq to Ramadi, in Anbar province.
But the problems may go beyond regional or sectarian loyalty and reflect crucial readiness problems.
The Iraqi army is not considered to be very mobile and lacks the armored transport vehicles or planes that would allow it to quickly deploy large groups of soldiers.
Thurman said he was “confident” the Ministry of Defense would get the additional soldiers in the “next few weeks.”
Baghdad has 15,000 U.S. forces, 9,000 Iraqi Army forces, 12,000 members of the Iraqi National Police and 22,000 local police, Thurman said.