Feb 5, 2007

Baghdad Offensive To Begin Today

The security conditions in Baghdad as the "surge" is being readied are not exactly earning any votes of confidence among the Shiite community.

In advance of the plan, which would flood Baghdad with thousands of new American and Iraqi troops, many Mahdi Army checkpoints were dismantled and its leaders were either in hiding or under arrest, which was one of the plan's intended goals to reduce sectarian fighting. But with no immediate influx of new security forces to fill the void, Shiites say, Sunni militants and other anti-Shiite forces have been emboldened to plot the type of attack that obliterated the bustling Sadriya market on Saturday, killing at least 135 people and wounding more than 300 from a suicide driver's truck bomb.

Meanwhile, today marks the official kickoff of the new U.S. "strategy."

A command center for a joint U.S.-Iraqi military offensive aimed at restoring security in Baghdad is due go into operation today.

The command center is to be headed by Iraqi Lieutenant General Abbud al-Jambar.

U.S. Colonel Doug Heckman, an adviser to the Iraqi Army, said the planned offensive will be of a much greater magnitude than previous security crackdowns against militants in Baghdad.

Heckman said the offensive was expected to begin soon after the command center becomes operational.

It was not immediately clear how many Iraqi and U.S. troops will take part in the offensive.

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