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U.S. Casualties in Iraq Rise Sharply
"The Baghdad security plan will only be a temporary fix," said a Pentagon official who has served in Iraq. "You need to address the root causes," said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.
The rising toll of wounded reflects ongoing heavy combat in Anbar as well as in Baghdad, where U.S. troops face an escalation of small-arms and other attacks as they push into the city's most violent neighborhoods to rein in sectarian death squads, militias and insurgents, officers say.
"Attacks against the coalition have definitely increased as . . . the enemy is trying to come in and reestablish themselves" in a dozen religiously divided districts in east and west Baghdad, said Lt. Col. Jonathan Withington, a spokesman for the U.S. military command in the city. "There's a lot of weapons in Baghdad," contributing to an increase in enemy attacks using small arms, he said.
Withington said he was not authorized to release the number of U.S. military personnel wounded in Baghdad or the number of attacks in the city, although the military has released such data in the past.
A survey of reports on combat deaths from August through early October, however, shows an increase in those killed in Baghdad from small-arms fire as well as bombs along roads. Dense urban terrain in the city of 6 million people, where enemy fighters have many places to hide and can attack from close quarters, reduces the advantage of the better-trained and better-equipped U.S. forces.
"September was horrific" in terms of the toll of wounded, and if the early October trend continues, this month could be "the worst month of the war," said John E. Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, a Virginia-based Web site that tracks defense issues.
The worsening violence in Baghdad has led some Pentagon officials to criticize decisions by the U.S. military since early 2005 to transfer responsibility for security in large swaths of Baghdad to Iraqi forces while cutting back on American patrols.
"We made decisions to take an indirect approach, which is great if you want low U.S. casualty rates," said the Pentagon official. However, he said: "Passing responsibility to Iraqis does not equal defeating terrorists and neutralizing the insurgency. Period."