GWEN IFILL: Now, two looks at the violence in Iraq. In
addition to the sectarian killings of Iraqi civilians, the past five days have
been especially bloody for U.S.
troops. For an on-the-ground look at these and other developments, I spoke
earlier today with Richard Oppel of the New York Times in Baghdad.
Rich Oppel, welcome. We're hearing from at least one senior
commander in Iraq
that this has been a very hard week. By my count, eight U.S. soldiers killed in the last
24-hour period, 15 since Saturday, 74 in the month of September. Is there any
concern being expressed about why these numbers seem to be spiking?
RICHARD OPPEL, New York Times: Well, that's right, Gwen. In
fact, we just received word that there were an additional four deaths north of Baghdad today, all
American soldiers. Earlier today, the top American spokesman in Iraq,
General William Caldwell, said there had been 18 deaths in 96 hours, plus now
there's four more that have just been reported.
I think the perspective here is that, with this operation
that the Americans started about six or seven weeks ago, or nearly two months
ago, to go through and try to clean out some of the worst Baghdad
neighborhoods, that that has exposed troops more and that there's a direct
linkage to this increase in deaths that we've seen.
GWEN IFILL: Is this increase limited to Baghdad, or is it also in other areas, like
Ramadi and other areas throughout the country?
RICHARD OPPEL: Well, certainly, Ramadi and all of Anbar Province
have continued to see a high number of deaths. I think the number of Marines in
Anbar just in the last few days has been at least five, so that's been the case
there for some time. Anbar remains, as much of Iraq is, a phenomenally dangerous
But I think -- I'm not sure of the precise numbers -- but I
think certainly in Baghdad
there's been a spike. I mean, the death count Monday in Baghdad
of eight, that was the highest single-day total for Baghdad in about 13 months.
GWEN IFILL: Is there any thought being given to part of this
being because Americans are being targeted as part of some new strategy?
RICHARD OPPEL: Well, al-Qaida, in their statements over the
Internet, they've called on their fighters to increase the targeting of
Americans. But, you know, the American strategy has been to slowly attempt to
get Iraqi troops more in fore, more on the frontlines.
But certainly with this operation in Baghdad that's been under way since August
7th, that's called for more American exposure and more American troops doing
frontline fighting here in the capital. And that's certainly part of the reason
that we've seen this spike.