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Iraq Transition

Baghdad violence forces U.S. to re-evaluate strategy

Story Highlights

• Insurgent attacks increased 22 percent during Ramadan, U.S. military says
• "Disheartening" violence forces rethinking of U.S.-Iraqi moves to secure Baghdad
• Attacks spurred by Ramadan, patrols and U.S. elections, spokesman says
• Aide to influential cleric released after promising to disavow violence
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A campaign to make Baghdad safer is being reconsidered after a "disheartening" surge of violence, a U.S. military spokesman said Thursday.

Officials say "some modification" is needed to the security plan which was a linchpin in the effort to restore law and order in the Iraqi capital.

Insurgent attacks increased 22 percent during the first three weeks of Ramadan compared with the previous three weeks, Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said -- even as U.S. and Iraqi forces ramped up a 2-month-long crackdown in the capital.

"Operation Together Forward has made a difference in the focus areas but has not met our overall expectations of sustaining a reduction in the levels of violence," Caldwell said.

"We are working very closely with the government of Iraq to determine how best to refocus our efforts."

CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr called the announcement of a change in plans a "huge admission" by the military.

Caldwell told reporters: "We're obviously very concerned about what we're seeing in the city, and we're taking a lot of time to go back and look at the Baghdad security plan.

"We're asking ourselves if the conditions under which it was first devised and planned still exist today or have the conditions changed and therefore modification to that plan needs to be made."

Thirteen U.S. service members were killed on Tuesday and Wednesday, bringing the American death toll to 72 in October and putting the month on track to become one of the deadliest for U.S. forces since the 2003 invasion. (Watch disturbing video of snipers targeting U.S. soldiers -- 5:16)

Scattered attacks in and around Baghdad and bombings in the northern cities of Mosul and Kirkuk killed more than 40 people on Thursday, police said.

Caldwell said violence had risen in the holy month of Ramadan, as it had done in the previous two years, and insurgents also were reacting to the increased number of security patrols and even looking to influence midterm elections in the United States.

"The enemy knows killing innocent people and Americans will garner headlines and create a sense of frustration. However, the coalition will not be deterred from establishing an Iraq that can provide for its own security and govern itself," he said.

Questions over al-Sadr official's release

U.S. and Iraqi officials say the Mehdi Army militia of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr may be behind some of the sectarian revenge killings plaguing Baghdad.

An al-Sadr official, Sheikh Mazen al-Saedi, was arrested by U.S. and Iraqi troops on suspicion that he was involved in illegal activities, Caldwell said, and he was released Wednesday at the request of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

Caldwell said Iraq's government had the right to follow its own course and had "a lot of information we're not privy to" when making decisions.

Al-Saedi signed a conditional release promising to support Iraq's government and disavow future acts of violence, Caldwell said, adding that the coalition would continue to target anyone "operating outside of the law."


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Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said insurgents are trying to influence U.S. elections.

SPECIAL REPORT

• Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
• Interactive: Sectarian divide
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