Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

In Peacekeeping Mode, US Troops Tested ; in the Next 10 Days, the US Will Add 4,000 Troops to the 12,000 in Baghdad

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

In Peacekeeping Mode, US Troops Tested ; in the Next 10 Days, the US Will Add 4,000 Troops to the 12,000 in Baghdad

Article excerpt

The challenge for US forces in Iraq couldn't be starker: Keeping the peace in the face of some determined and violent anti-American elements, while at the same time persuading Iraqis that this is a benevolent occupation.

Despite budding US efforts to create an interim Iraqi government, Iraqis across the political spectrum say that the lack of law and order is their top concern.

Tuesday, US reconstruction chief Jay Garner convened a "town hall" meeting on security issues with more than 50 Iraqi city officials and top American military brass.

At the meeting, Maj. Gen. Glenn Webster said that the 12,000 US troops already in Baghdad would be increased by 3,000 to 4,000 within 10 days, to mount foot and vehicle patrols, sometimes with Iraqi police volunteers.

But the sense of insecurity remains acute, and that was underscored Monday night. US troops opened fire on gunmen on a motorcycle and on top of buildings who the soldiers said had infiltrated an anti-American demonstration of 200 people, and fired at US positions in a school in Fallujah, 30 miles west of Baghdad, according to US Central Command in Qatar. Iraqi hospital staff reported that 13 Iraqis were killed, and 75 wounded. Some Iraqis said that among the demonstrators were unarmed students protesting the use of their school as a barracks by US forces, as well as Islamists and Hussein loyalists. None said there was any shooting from their side.

The incident will further increase US-Iraqi tension on the streets, as did a blast on the outskirts of Baghdad on Saturday.

Iraqi ammunition - including one million bullets and 40 missiles - had been collected at the site and was under American care, but was struck by Iraqi attackers with incendiary grenades, according to US officials. The explosion killed at least 10 civilians, and sparked fierce anti-US protests.

"We have found that there are people in this country who don't want it to be secure, who don't want electricity on," General Webster told the Iraqis at the security meeting. "We need your help to identify those threats."

Officials characterized such incidents as deliberately aimed at undermining US-led rule here, to turn the population against the American presence. Recent interviews by the Monitor with captured paramilitary loyalists of Saddam Hussein, confirm that orders had been issued to help make post-Saddam Iraq ungovernable.

"There are people who don't want this to succeed, so there are gunfights at night, power-brokering going on, gangs that are trying to establish their turf. All that is happening," says British Gen. Tim Cross, the deputy head of the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA). "I'm a chaos man, not a conspiracy man, and I think in this environment, there is mostly chaos," says General Cross. "But it would be naive to expect that there is not some conspiracy going on, particularly with regard to the burning of ministries. …

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