U.S. forces launch new offensive in Iraq

by Steve Handelsman

NBC News

U-S military commanders have announced a major offensive push in Iraq.

They hope to keep Al Qaeda and the most fanatic Sunni insurgents on the run ahead of an upcoming report on the status of President Bush's "surge" plan.

The main target is Al Qaeda.

Camera crews are being sent along with the soldiers targeting suspected Al Qaeda camps southwest of Baghdad.

At the same time U-S pilots are bombing suspected Al Qaeda headquarters.

The surge, planned by U-S commander David Petraeus, is working in Baghdad, but driving  many of the Sunni insurgents and by Al Qaeda fighters into other areas.

The plan is to keep Al Qaeda fighters on the run and unable to stage the spectacular suicide bombings that they're assumed to be planning to coincide with the mid September assessment of the surge.

U-S forces are also targeting the Shia militias left in Baghdad's Sadr City slums.

Meanwhile, the political news in Baghdad is not good.

Prime Minister Maliki's government remains split.

Sunnis who recently walked out did not show up at a reconciliation meeting on Tuesday.

Just 32 days remain until General Petraeus reports on the surge to Congress.

Everyone agrees the battle in Iraq is likely to intensify as the report date nears.