BAGHDAD - The United States military surge in Iraq, designed to turn around the course of the war, appears to be failing as senior US officers admit they need yet more troops and new figures show a sharp increase in the victims of death squads in Baghdad.
In the first 11 days of this month 234 bodies - men murdered by death squads - have been dumped around the capital, a dramatic rise from the 137 found in the same period last month.
Improving security in Baghdad and reducing death-squad activity were described as two of the key aims of the US surge of 25,000 additional troops, the final units of whom are due to arrive next month.
In a further setback, the US military announced yesterday the loss of an entire patrol south of Baghdad, with five soldiers dead and three others missing, after they were ambushed by insurgents in the town of Mahmoudiya.
The new figures emerged as the commander of US forces in northern Iraq, Major General Benjamin Mixon, admitted he did not have enough soldiers to contain the rising violence in Diyala province, which neighbours Baghdad and has become the focus of the heaviest fighting between largely Sunni insurgent groups and the US Army.