The US military acknowledged on Thursday that its two-month drive to crush insurgent and militia violence in the Iraqi capital had fallen short, calling the raging bloodshed disheartening and saying it was rethinking its strategy to rein in gunmen, torturers and bombers.
The admission by military spokesman Major-General William Caldwell came as car bombs, mortar fire and shootings around the country killed at least 66 people and wounded 175. The dead included the Anbar Province police commander, slain by gunmen who burst into his home in Ramadi.
The US military also announced the deaths of three US troops in fighting, raising the toll for US troops this month to 74. The month is on course to be the deadliest for US forces in nearly two years.
The high death tolls this month for both Americans and Iraqis have pushed the long and unpopular war back into the public eye in the US, forcing the Bush administration and the military to address difficult questions in the final weeks of the US congressional election campaign.
US Vice President Dick Cheney said the US was not looking for a way out of Iraq.
"I know what the president thinks. I know what I think. And we're not looking for an exit strategy. We're looking for victory," Cheney said in an interview posted on Time magazine's Web site on Thursday.
Caldwell told reporters the US-Iraqi bid to crush violence in the capital had not delivered the desired results, with attacks in Baghdad rising by 22 percent in the first three weeks of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan when compared to the three previous weeks.
"In Baghdad, Operation Together Forward has made a difference in the focus areas but has not met our overall expectations in sustaining a reduction in the level of violence," Caldwell said at a news briefing. He was referring to the security sweep, which began on Aug. 7 with the introduction of an additional 12,000 US and Iraqi troops into Baghdad.
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Troops stay until war won: Bush