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Explanations for failure in Samarra vary

SAMARRA, Iraq—U.S. Army commanders gave several reasons that the American effort to secure and rebuild Samarra has stumbled:

_ U.S. officials don't fully understand the city's tribal structure and its connections to the insurgency. Smuggling long has been an important source of income for tribes in the area, and Capt. Scott Brannon, who commands the company of soldiers that's responsible for Samarra, said local sheiks tried to protect their smuggling businesses, alternately working with insurgents and with American forces to win lucrative reconstruction contracts.

_ Insurgents have infiltrated and intimidated the Iraqi police and army, rendering them ineffective.

_ Nearly three years after the United States toppled Saddam Hussein's dictatorship, Samarra still has no effective city government. Several have dissolved or have been disbanded by American military leaders, and the assassination of a tribal sheik who'd met with U.S. military officials scared many other local leaders away. "When the sheik was killed, the city council was disbanded out of fear ... everyone went to ground," said Lt. Col. Skip Johnson, 45, of Dallas, who commands the battalion in and around Samarra.

_ Insurgent attacks have created a violent and dangerous environment in which American forces sometimes kill innocent civilians, further alienating the populace. "I think for the most part the average Samarran wants peace. I think they want it to get back to where it was before, but I don't know if it will ever get back to that," Johnson said.


(c) 2006, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.