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Officers See Need For Bigger Iraq Force

But several officers who discussed the matter said any such appeal should simply be seen as reflecting the desire of the military command here to press the fight.

To further bolster U.S. forces in the short term, commanders also are considering extending the scheduled departure of the 2nd Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division, which has been assigned to the Kirkuk area.

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U.S. military intelligence assessments portray the Fallujah offensive as having destroyed the insurgency's largest haven, but the assessments also acknowledge that the violent resistance campaign is far from broken nationwide. Since the Fallujah operation, insurgent attacks have continued across a broad stretch of Iraq, from northern cities to a restive area in Babil province south of Baghdad.

Although U.S. military officials have reported 1,600 or more enemy fighters killed in Fallujah, no key leaders of the insurgency were either killed or captured, according to senior officers here. Many insurgents who fled the city either before or during the battle are now thought by U.S. commanders to be looking for opportunities to regroup and mount new attacks.

"Our assessment is that the insurgency remains viable," a senior military intelligence officer here said. "One of the things we see the insurgents doing is moving to areas where we don't have a lot of presence."

The number of daily attacks, which surged to about 130 at the start of the Fallujah operation, has declined to between 70 and 80 in recent days, roughly the level before the operation. But the senior intelligence officer said it is still too early to gauge the full impact of the Fallujah battle on the insurgency, estimating another week or two will be necessary for military analysts to get a clearer picture.

Everything found so far, the officer said, has confirmed Fallujah as the insurgency's largest and most significant stronghold. The sheer number of bombs, shells and other munitions discovered has stunned some senior analysts.

"The number of caches they're finding, the weapons and things like that, are greater than we probably assessed," the intelligence officer said. "So we may have done more damage to their capability than we previously understood."

In discussing battle plans, commanders here did not want to telegraph the areas U.S. forces might be focusing on for their next offensives. But some of the potential targets can easily be discerned by mapping the locations of attacks on U.S. forces, including areas in or around the restive cities of Mosul, Ramadi, Baqubah, Samarra and Baghdad.

At the same time, officers cautioned against expecting anything on the scale of Fallujah, which involved more than 10,000 U.S. troops and about 2,500 Iraqi forces.

"They're not going to be big operations like Fallujah, because there's no place else in Iraq where the situation is like what it was there," one commander said.


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