BAGHDAD, Iraq – The two-month-old U.S.-Iraqi bid to crush violence in the Iraqi capital has not met “overall expectations,” as attacks in Baghdad rose by 22 percent in the first three weeks of Ramadan, the U.S. military spokesman said Thursday.
The spike in bloodshed during the Islamic holy month of fasting was “disheartening” and the Americans were working with Iraqi authorities to “refocus” security measures, Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell said.
“In Baghdad, Operation Together Forward has made a difference in the focus areas but has not met our overall expectations in sustaining a reduction in the level of violence,” Caldwell said at a weekly news briefing.
The gloomy assessment of the operation, which began Aug. 7 with the deployment of an extra 12,000 U.S. and Iraqi troops, was issued at a time of perceived tension between the United States and the nearly five-month-old government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Caldwell said, for example, that U.S. forces had been forced to release Mazin al-Sa’edi, a top organizer in western Baghdad for radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. He said al-Sa’edi was set free on the demand of al-Maliki after being detained Wednesday with five aides for suspected involvement in Shiite militant violence….