Attacks Kill Three Soldiers, General Says No More Troops Needed in Iraq
U.S. Gen. Tommy Franks, head of U.S. Central Command, told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that any further deployment would not help coalition efforts to build a democracy in Iraq.
“The sense that I have right now is that it’s not time to send in additional troops,” the four-star general said. “We want… to continue to move forward with establishing security by working with the Iraqis.”
According to Central Command, there are approximately 145,000 Americans and 12,000 coalition troops — including British, Polish and other forces — now working in Iraq. Some 20,000 additional soldiers from various nations will be deployed to Iraq starting later this month, according to Pentagon officials.
Franks added that continuing clashes between coalition forces and Iraqi militants indicate the aggressive nature of American efforts, rather than lawlessness or chaos.
“The thing that…I spend most time thinking about is the notion that could lead one to believe that these coalition forces in Iraq are sitting back and waiting for something… for these criminals and these Fedayeen Saddam elements to come and attack them — and that simply isn’t the case,” Franks said. “This is all about offensive operations in Iraq and that’s what our troops are doing.”
Franks’ comments came even as reports of deadly hit-and-run attacks on Americans continued. During a bloody 13-hour period from midday Sunday until early morning Monday local time, three Americans were killed in Baghdad and four were wounded in the western town of Ramadi.
The first attack took place on the Baghdad University campus, which has seen little violence since the city fell in April. A U.S. soldier was leaving the campus cafeteria when he was shot at close range with a small-caliber pistol.
“While he was coming down the steps from the cafeteria, we heard a pistol shot,” witness Ali Jumaa told The Washington Post. “I saw him fall down just in front of me…He was shot in the back of the neck. We all ran.”
A second soldier died in a gunfight after two Iraqi gunmen opened fire on his patrol in a northern Baghdad neighborhood at 9:30 p.m. Sunday, a U.S. military spokesman said.
“Soldiers pursued the attackers and during an ensuing firefight, the soldier was killed. One gunman was killed and the other wounded,” Central Command said in a statement.
The third soldier died at 1:00 a.m. local time (5:00 p.m. EDT Sunday) when a bomb exploded near his vehicle.
All three soldiers belonged to the 1st Armored Division, but their names were not released pending notification of family members.
Also late Sunday, attackers wounded four American servicemen when they fired a rocket-propelled grenade at their convoy in the town of Ramadi, 100 miles west of Baghdad.
Tensions were running high in Ramadi since a bombing Saturday killed seven Iraqi police recruits and injured dozens more. The bombing took place as the recruits graduated from a U.S.-taught training course.
Soldiers have not been the only ones targeted in the latest round of attacks. Around noon Saturday local time, a British free-lance cameraman, Richard Wild, 24, died after he was shot in the head at point-blank range. Wild was interviewing Iraqis on a busy street when he was attacked.
The latest attacks followed the broadcast of a taped message, purportedly from toppled Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
In the tape, Saddam called the quick collapse of the Iraqi regime a necessary retreat and urged all Iraqis to resist American “imperialists.” The speaker, claiming to be Saddam, said he is directing attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq. The voice also asserts the recording was made on June 14th.
On Monday, the Central Intelligence Agency said it now believed the voice on the tape is that of the former Iraqi ruler.
“The CIA’s assessment, after a technical analysis of the tape, is that it’s most likely his voice,” CIA spokesman Bill Harlow said Monday. “The exact date of the recording cannot be determined.”