BAGHDAD, Iraq — The day after the U.S. military declared its Iraq surge at full strength, the No. 2 commander in Iraq appeared frustrated Saturday as he was briefed on progress in the restive neighborhood of Dora, an al-Qaida stronghold in west Baghdad.
"I guess I thought we'd make a little more progress," Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno said at a combat outpost in the Dora market.
Odierno said he considered Friday the first day of President Bush's Iraq surge, with the last of 28,500 additional troops declared in place. Some of those added troops had already were beginning operations in violence-prone areas, including restive Arab Jubour south of the capital, where Odierno said "we've never had a presence."
Indeed, throughout the country Saturday, muted violence flashed even against the backdrop of curfews that kept most Iraqis housebound.
The clampdown followed Wednesday's bombing of a revered Shiite shrine in Samarra but failed to prevent the second bombing in as many days on Sunni mosques in the southern port city of Basra.
And as Defense Secretary Robert Gates wrapped up a visit pressuring the Iraqi government for progress, one Iraqi was killed and four others were wounded in a barrage of rockets or mortars on Baghdad's highly fortified Green Zone.
In the past, the Dora neighborhood that Odierno visited Saturday has proven a regular source of mortar fire aimed toward the government and military offices defended so heavily in the city's center.
Ordinarily, nearly 250 stores are in Dora. But Saturday the market was dead because of a government curfew on vehicles. After being told the market is typically bustling, Odierno looked at the rows of empty street vendors' shops and shuttered stores and declared it "depressing."
He heard complaints about contractors not performing and areas where they still needed to erect blast walls to block al-Qaida fighters. Roughly $5 million has been spent to wall off neighborhoods and markets.
"The issue is not the money as much as it is the speed," the general said at a combat outpost in Dora market. "There are pockets of progress," he said but added that 30 percent of the city needed a lot more work, areas with a "Sunni/Shiite fault line."
Al-Qaida is moving into the notoriously violent and mostly Sunni neighborhood as it is pushed out of the Sunni Anbar province west of the capital. National police aren't trusted by the local Sunni population. Christians are forced to pay a tax, convert, marry their daughters to a fighter or leave.
At a noon briefing, Odierno told company and unit commanders to stick to the mission.
"Sometimes I know it's hard for you all to see it," he said. "But I do see us moving forward."
As he boarded the helicopter after his afternoon trip he said that Washington politicians need needed to give the effort more time.
"We need more time, they've got to give us time here," he said. "It's just too early."
His comments came as the U.S. military revealed that a week earlier it found the identification cards of two American soldiers, missing for nearly a month, in what was described as an al-Qaida safe house north of Baghdad.
Spc. Alex R. Jimenez and Pvt. Byron Fouty disappeared May 12 when their small convoy was parked near the village of Youssifiyah, about 70 miles south of where their IDs were found, on the lookout for insurgents planting roadside bombs.
That raid led to the immediate deaths of four American soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division and one man from the Iraqi army. The body of a third U.S. soldier taken in the incident, Pfc. Joseph Anzack Jr., was found days later floating in the Euphrates River.
In Samarra, American and Iraqi officials met with local civic leaders in an effort to stave off more violence in response to the shrine attack.
Col. Bryan Owens, commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, said that the shrine attack appeared to galvanize both Shiite and Sunni Iraqis in the northern province of Salahaddin against al-Qaida.
He said the movement of about 2,000 members of the Iraqi army and national police into and around Samarra after the attack appeared to give civilians a sense of calm. The U.S. military added two platoons to a company based outside the city.
Unlike when sectarian reprisals broke out last year around the Shiite cities of Balad and Dujayl in the Sunni-dominated province, Owens said leaders on both sides of the sectarian divide spoke eagerly about rooting out terrorists.
"We've got Sunnis and Shiites coalescing against the problem," the colonel said. "This time they've learned and stepped up very quickly."
Nationally, there remained signs for worry about what the bombing of the Samarra shrine had wrought. Anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called Saturday on his fellow Shiites to stage a march on Samarra in defense of the shrine. He laid ultimate responsibility for damage to the shrine on the United States, Britain, and Israel.
In Basra, about 6 a.m. Saturday, gunmen traveling in pickup trucks moved into the al-Ashrah al-Mubashra mosque in Basra's al-Hakimiya district at dawn. Shortly afterward, said one resident in the neighborhood, an explosion rocked the area and the building's single minaret came tumbling down.
Elsewhere in Iraq, the remains of 13 members of the national Iraqi Tae Kwon Do team kidnapped last year were found near the main highway in Anbar province leading to Jordan. The team was ambushed on the way to a training camp in May 2006.