Marking a new turn in the American presence in Iraq, US President George W Bush is sending over 21,000 extra military personnel to the strife-torn country next week.
Of the new deployment, 17,000 troops will be sent to Baghdad and 4,000 to the violence-ridden Anbar province, where President Bush is promising a showdown with al-Qaeda.
However, the President has warned the American people to prepare themselves for more deaths. “The year ahead will demand more patience, sacrifice and resolve,” he said in a televised address to from the White House.
Bush admitted that not sending more troops to Iraq earlier had been a mistake. Said he: “The situation in Iraq is unacceptable to the American people, and it is unacceptable to me. Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me.”
It may be noted that the US political scenario has dramatically changed since the mid-term elections in November 2006. The Democrats, who made huge gains in the polls, are openly calling for troops withdrawal.
Illinois Senator Richard Durbin commented: “Escalation of this war is not the change the American people called for in the last election. Instead of a new direction, the President’s plan moves the American commitment in Iraq in the wrong direction. It’s time for President Bush to face the reality of Iraq. And, the reality is this: America has paid a heavy price. We have paid with the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform. And we’ve paid with the hard-earned tax dollars of the families of America.”
Meanwhile, in Baghdad Iraqis voiced scepticism over whether more troops would help.
Analysts fear that President Bush’s decision to send more US troops to Iraq poses serious risks, including a rise in casualty rates, and its success will depend on many factors beyond America’s control.
The increase of about some 21,000 soldiers and Marines will take the number of US troops in Iraq to over 153,000. The US has already suffered heavy casualties but has failed so far to check the spiralling violence.
The US troop levels reached a peak of 159,000 in January 2005, according to Pentagon figures. Which raises the question whether the increase in the number of troops will be enough to quell violence that has intensified – a complex mix of sectarian, insurgent, Islamist militant and criminal attacks.
The sectarian violence, in particular, escalated since the bombing of a Shi’ite shrine in Samarra in February 2006.
Advocates of the hike in the US troop level pin much of their hopes on the fact that the US forces will now hold areas of Baghdad once these areas are cleared of insurgents and militia fighters.
So far, over 3,000 US soldiers have died and more than 22,000 others have been wounded in Iraq since the US-led invasion in 2003.
UK NOT SENDING TROOPS: Meanwhile, Britain has said it has no intention of sending additional soldiers to Iraq.
British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett, while welcoming US President Bush’s announcement to send additional US troops to Iraq, on Thursday distanced the British Government from the US policy in Iraq.
“It is not our intention at the present time to send more troops,” Beckett told reporters at Downing Street.