The top U.S. military officer confirmed Wednesday that additional U.S. troops are being moved into Baghdad from other parts of Iraq to try to help get the security situation in the capital under control. The U.S. troops would make up for a shortfall in Iraqi forces that were supposed to be involved in the security operation, but the U.S. general says the effort to find more Iraqi troops for the capital is continuing. VOA's Al Pessin reports from the Pentagon.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace, says the troop movement was ordered by the top U.S. commander in Iraq, General George Casey.
"I won't predict from here how big and how long," said General Pace. "But I can tell you that is very much a part of the dialogue in Baghdad and here in Washington."
The U.S. Army says two battalions are being moved into Baghdad from northern Iraq. That would involve about 2,000 troops. But the officials say the soldiers will, at least in part, replace others who are scheduled to leave for home.
General Pace acknowledged Wednesday that the security operation in Baghdad in recent months has not been as effective as commanders had hoped. That has been partly because the Iraqi army has not been able to provide as many troops for the operation as had been planned.
But General Pace denied reports that all the U.S. marines will be withdrawn from al Anbar Province to help in Baghdad. He said the United States is not giving up on any part of Iraq. And he said U.S. and Iraqi officials are continuing to try to identify Iraqi military units that can be brought into the fight against insurgents and sectarian militias in Baghdad, without creating any security vacuums in other parts of the country.
"Collectively they are looking at where there are additional Iraqi security forces that could be moved to Baghdad to help stabilize the situation there," he said.
General Pace noted that some Iraqi Army units were formed along regional and sectarian lines, and that moving them to other parts of the country could exacerbate tensions. He says that makes it more difficult to find Iraqi units to move to Baghdad.
The general also described an extensive strategic and tactical review he is leading, involving senior U.S. military officers and commanders who have just ended tours of duty in Iraq. He said the review provides recommendations every week, both to policy makers and to field commanders, but he disputed media reports that the process is leading to any particular recommendation on U.S. troop levels in Iraq.
"It's been reported that we're looking at beefing up," said General Pace. "It was reportered that we're looking at 'skinnying' down. As you would expect your military planners to do, we are looking at the whole spectrum of possible military actions."
General Pace says the military recommendations go to President Bush, along with advice from other sources, including the Iraq Study Group, which is expected to issue its long-awaited report next month.
The general was also asked to weigh into the debate on whether the ongoing violence in Iraq constitutes a civil war.
"It's much more important that we focus on how to defeat the enemy that is trying to create the civil war than it is we spend a lot of time 'dancing on the head of a pin' as far as what particular words we should use to describe the environment, which is currently unacceptable," he said.
But General Pace indicated he does not think Iraq is in a state of civil war. He said al-Qaida insurgents are trying to generate a level of violence that would make the country ungovernable, but he says they have so far not succeeded in doing so.