In one of the deadliest days in Iraq so far this year, nearly 70 people were killed and dozens more wounded after a period of relative respite from violence there during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The heightened violence is sure to intensify the debate about whether to leave any U.S. troops in the country past the end of the year.
At least 37 people were killed and more than 50 injured when two bombs exploded in a crowded jewelry market in the city center of Kut, The Washington Post reported. Meanwhile, car bombs exploded in the northern city of Kirkuk and Baghdad’s Mansour district, and militants carrying AK-47s targeted leaders northeast of the capital. “This wave of explosions and attacks is evidence that al-Qaeda is still effective,” Lt. Col. Hachem Neama Abbas, an Iraqi army commander in Baghdad, told The Post.
The violence comes as the remaining 46,000 U.S. troops now in Iraq prepare to pull out by the end of 2011 under the terms of a treaty signed by the Bush administration in late 2008. The Obama administration has made clear that it would be open to leaving approximately 10,000 troops in Iraq indefinitely at the request of the Iraqi leadership, but Baghdad has not yet requested such an extension.
The rising American death toll is also complicating the political debate over leaving troops in the war-torn country. June was the deadliest month for American troops in more than two years, with 14 killed. U.S. military commanders in Iraq told National Journal last month that Iranian-made weaponry, largely smuggled across the country’s formal borders with Iran, is killing American troops there at an unprecedented pace.