Insurgents fired rockets or mortars Tuesday at the sprawling garrison that houses the headquarters of American forces in Iraq, killing one person and wounding 11 coalition soldiers, the U.S. command said.
The command said the person killed was a “third country national,” meaning someone who is not an American or Iraqi. Most troops stationed at Camp Victory are American but other coalition soldiers are based at the complex near Baghdad International Airport. No further details on the attack were immediately released.
The attack occurred as U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker and the top commander Gen. David Petraeus testified before Congress for a second day on the situation in Iraq since President Bush’s decision to send 30,000 reinforcements to stem sectarian violence.
Petraeus recommended keeping the bulk of U.S. forces in Iraq through next summer. The Associated Press has learned that Bush will tell the American people this week he plans to reduce the U.S. troop presence by next summer to pre-buildup levels.
Iraq hails Petraeus’ testimony
The Iraqi government welcomed Petraeus’ recommendation to keep additional forces in Iraq into this coming year, giving assurances that the need for U.S. military support here would decrease over time.
National Security Adviser Mouwaffak al-Rubaie, reading from a government statement, said the Iraqis believed that “in the near future” the need for U.S. and other coalition forces “will decrease.”
“The aim of the Iraqi government is to achieve self-reliance in security as soon as possible, but we still need the support of coalition forces to reach this point,” cautioned al-Rubaie, who in the past has often given rosy pictures of Iraq’s capabilities.
Al-Rubaie said the Iraqis “understand ... the impatience and disappointment of our coalition supporters who expected more (progress) sooner.”
Some Iraqis said the testimony in Washington meant little for their daily struggles in Baghdad.
“I was listening to the report last night, and I think it’s a forgery lacking credibility. They (the Americans) care for their interests only,” said a Baghdad resident who gave only his nickname, Abu Ali, out of fear of reprisals. “It might be propaganda ahead of U.S. elections.”
Much of the American criticism has centered on the failure of Iraq’s Shiite-dominated government to enact power-sharing agreements among Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish factions, which the U.S. sees as essential to lasting peace.
Signs of progress
However, there were some signs of progress on the political front.
The Iraqi Cabinet sent to parliament a draft bill that would allow many former Saddam Hussein supporters to get back their government jobs — a major Sunni demand. The bill would also bring the screening commission under tighter legislative control, according to a copy obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press.
Sunni discontent over government policies prompted the six Cabinet members from the main Sunni bloc to walk off the job last month, triggering a major political crisis.
On Tuesday, however, Planning Minister Ali Baban announced he was returning to work “temporarily.” His Iraqi Accordance Front demanded he reverse the decision, and one faction leader branded the move “treason.”
Violence continued with U.S. troops killing nine suspects in a pre-dawn raid on the Baghdad Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City Tuesday, the military said. Iraqi police and witnesses said only three people were killed, all civilians.
Iraqi officials said eight others were injured in the operation in Sadr City — home to 2.5 million of Baghdad’s poorest residents as well the Mahdi Army, a militia loyal to anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
The U.S. raid was conducted to “detain criminals involved in murder, kidnapping, IED and mortar attacks and weapons smuggling,” the military said in a statement. Nine “armed terrorists” were killed and eight were captured, it said.