BAQOUBA, Iraq -- The US commander of a new offensive north of Baghdad, reclaiming insurgent territory day by day, said yesterday his Iraqi partners might be too weak to hold onto the gains.
The Iraqi military does not have enough ammunition, said Brigadier General Mick Bednarek: "They're not quite up to the job yet."
His counterpart south of Baghdad seemed to agree, saying US troops are too few to garrison the districts newly rid of insurgents. "It can't be coalition forces. We have what we have. There's got to be more Iraqi security forces," Major General Rick Lynch said.
The two commanders spoke after a deadly day for the US military in Iraq. At least 12 soldiers were killed on Saturday from roadside bombings and other causes, leaving at least 31 dead for the week.
In the US offensive dubbed Operation Arrowhead Ripper, about 10,000 American troops were in their sixth day of combat to drive Sunni Al Qaeda militants from their stronghold in Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad.
Between 60 and 100 suspected Al Qaeda fighters and one US soldier have been killed so far in the fighting in western Baqouba, said Bednarek, the 25th Infantry Division's deputy commander for operations. About 60 insurgents were detained, he said.
He estimated that between 50 and 100 insurgents were inside a US security cordon in the city.
He said US forces now control about 60 percent of the city's west side, but "the challenge now is, how do you hold onto the terrain you've cleared? You have to do that shoulder-to-shoulder with Iraqi security forces. And they're not quite up to the job yet."
Across Diyala Province, where Baqouba is the capital, Iraqi troops are short on uniforms, weapons, ammunition, trucks, and radios, he said.
Lynch, commander of an operation clearing Baghdad's southern outskirts, was asked at a news conference whether he thought Iraqi troops would be able to secure his gains.
"There's not enough of them," Lynch replied. "So I believe the Iraqi government has got to work to create more Iraqi security forces."
In violence around Iraq yesterday, a roadside bomb exploded at noon in central Samarra, north of Baghdad, killing four Interior Ministry Special Forces personnel in a passing utility vehicle, police reported. Farther north, Ninevah provincial police said gunmen in a speeding car shot and killed Ahmed Zeinel, a Shi'ite Kurdish member of the provincial council, as he left his house in Mosul yesterday morning.