219 killed is highest toll over 2 months
By C�sar G. Soriano and Tom Vanden Brook
BAGHDAD � Increased military activity throughout Iraq has pushed U.S. troop deaths to their highest level for any two-month period of the war.
Pentagon records show that 115 troops have been killed so far in May. That raises the total for the past two months to 219, exceeding the 215 who died in April and May of 2004, when U.S. forces fought insurgents in Fallujah.
Ten U.S. troops died Monday. Two roadside bombs killed six troops who were part of a force heading to the scene of a downed Army helicopter in Diyala province. The two helicopter pilots died in the crash, the cause of which is under investigation, said Lt. Col. Michael Donnelly, spokesman for U.S. forces in northern Iraq.
Two other troops were killed by bombs in southern Baghdad.
The rising number of casualties coincides with the addition of at least 28,000 U.S. troops in Iraq as part of the U.S.-led security plan. That plan, which includes moving troops from fortified bases to closer contact with Iraqi civilians and insurgents, has contributed to the higher casualties, said Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, the chief spokesman for U.S. forces in Iraq.
Caldwell said coalition forces are targeting leaders of al-Qaeda in Iraq and insurgents.
While U.S. officials say the security plan is accomplishing some goals, Baghdad and other areas remain beset by car bombs and sectarian violence.
At least 38 people were killed in two bombings Tuesday.
Caldwell said the violence will continue as U.S. forces keep challenging the insurgents, but he expects casualties "to come down from the levels of engagements we're having now."
"Americans are doing things they were not doing a year ago," said James Carafano, a military analyst at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington. "They're going into bad places looking for bad people and not leaving."
President Bush announced the increase of U.S. forces in Iraq in January. There will be more than 150,000 U.S. troops in Iraq by the end of June.
The death toll reflects fighting in areas south and east of Baghdad that had been left to insurgents, said Frederick Kagan, a military analyst at the American Enterprise Institute and one of the architects of the plan to increase troops. "We're taking the fight to the enemy, and the enemy is fighting back," Kagan said.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said last week that violence could peak in the summer months as insurgents try to influence the political debate in the USA. Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, is to give Congress a progress report in September.
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