U.S. General Confronts Iraqi Leader On Security
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
BAGHDAD, Nov. 13 -- The U.S. Central Command chief confronted Iraq's prime minister on Monday over how Iraqi forces would halt raging violence and signaled a possible prelude to shifts in American policy on engaging Iran and Syria.
The meeting came as sectarian attacks killed at least 90 people throughout Iraq, 46 of them showing signs of torture. The U.S. military announced the deaths of four additional American soldiers.
Army Gen. John P. Abizaid, commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, sternly warned Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that he must disband Shiite militias and give the United States proof that they were disarmed, according to senior Iraqi government officials with knowledge of what the two men discussed.
One of the militias, the Mahdi Army, is loyal to anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. On Monday night, U.S. forces raided the homes of some Sadr followers, and U.S. jets fired rockets on Shula, their northwest Baghdad neighborhood, residents said. Police said five residents were killed, although a senior Sadr aide put the death toll at nine. The U.S. military said it had no comment.
In their meeting, Abizaid also asked the Iraqi leader to give the U.S. military a firm timetable for when Iraq's security forces could take full control of the country, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the talks.
Maliki has been pressing the United States to move more quickly to hand security affairs over to his army, claiming it could crush violence in the country within six months.
On Monday, Abizaid asked the prime minister to give a detailed explanation of how he would do that. The top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., recently said it would take 12 to 18 months before Iraqi security forces were ready to control the whole country with some U.S. backup.
U.S. officials did not respond to requests for comment on Monday's meeting.
Also on Monday, police said a bomb detonated on a bus in the northeast Baghdad neighborhood of Shaab shortly after noon, killing 20 people. Sunni insurgents have frequently targeted Shiite bus passengers in sectarian reprisal killings.
Hours earlier, Mohammed al-Ban, a cameraman for Iraq's independent al-Sharqiya satellite television network, was gunned down in the northern city of Mosul. His wife was wounded, police said.