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Last Updated: Monday, 25 June 2007, 08:29 GMT 09:29 UK
Iraqis 'unable to hold US gains'
US soldiers in Baquba
The Baquba strategy aimed to flush al-Qaeda from the area
The US commander of a new offensive north of Baghdad says Iraqi forces cannot be relied on to hold territory seized from insurgents.

Brigadier General Mick Bednarek said Iraqi forces had insufficient arms and were "not quite up to the job yet".

Earlier, a senior US commander said most of the key al-Qaeda leadership escaped before the offensive began in Baquba, north of Baghdad.

Meanwhile, three suicide blasts killed at least 25 people in Iraq on Monday.

At least seven people died in a bomb attack on the Mansour Hotel in Baghdad, used by Westerners.

At least eight people were killed when a bomb ripped into a crowd of police recruits in Hilla and at least 10 died when an attacker rammed an oil tanker into the police HQ in the northern oil city of Baiji.

Short of essentials

The US military billed the operation in Baquba as a major offensive to eliminate al-Qaeda from the area.

As in Baghdad, the strategy was for American troops to do the initial clearing of areas, with Iraqi units holding them afterwards.

US forces now control much of Baquba's western side, according to Brig Gen Bednarek.

But he said the Iraqi units working with them are not up to the job of holding onto these gains and many even lacked weapons and ammunition, as well as other essentials like trucks, radios and uniforms.

Similar complaints have been made by Major General Rick Lynch, who's leading another large push against insurgents south of Baghdad.

He said there were too few US troops to garrison the districts newly rid of insurgents.

"It can't be coalition forces. We have what we have. There's got to be more Iraqi security forces," said Maj Gen Lynch.

The BBC's Andrew North, in Baghdad, says US commanders blame a lack of committed and properly organised Iraqi troops for the failure of past efforts to secure the Baghdad region.

Under President Bush's surge plan, it was supposed to be different this time, but the same problems are emerging again, our correspondent adds.

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