BAGHDAD,(Reuters) – U.S. forces in Iraq suffered one of their worst days on Wednesday, with 11 soldiers reported killed as a high-level panel in Washington said training of Iraqi forces should speed up so that U.S. troops can withdraw.
Confirming the 11 deaths, U.S. military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Garver said on Thursday five soldiers had been killed in a single roadside bomb blast in Kirkuk province. Details of the other six deaths were not immediately available.
The deaths, an unusually high daily toll, brought to 30 the number of U.S. soldiers killed since the start of the month and underlined the human cost of the U.S. deployment in Iraq, where rampant violence kills scores of Iraqis every day.
The Sunni insurgency against the U.S. forces continues unabated. Some 2,920 U.S. soldiers have been killed since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. October was the deadliest month for U.S. troops in nearly two years, when 106 service members died.
In its much-anticipated report, the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, which spent nine months exploring alternative options for U.S. strategy in Iraq, called on the U.S. military to strengthen efforts to train Iraqi forces by increasing the number of its forces embedded with Iraq troops to 20,000 from about 4,000. “The primary mission of U.S. forces in Iraq should evolve to one of supporting the Iraqi army, which would take over primary responsibility for combat,” it said, foreseeing a U.S. focus on training, logistics, advice and intelligence that would still leave thousands of U.S. soldiers in Iraq.
While it set no hard timetable for the transition, the report said that by the first quarter of 2008 U.S. combat troops not needed for “force protection” could be out of Iraq, depending on security conditions.