The U.S. Defense Department says insurgent and sectarian attacks in Iraq have soared to record highs over the last three months, to about 1,000 incidents each week. The Pentagon report also says the Iraqi government is trying, but failing, to achieve national unity between feuding factions. The study comes as the Washington Post reports the Bush administration is divided over a possible plan to temporarily deploy more U.S. troops to Iraq.
Suicide bombings and other attacks against Iraqi civilians and against Iraqi and U.S. troops have soared to the highest level on record. The latest quarterly report by the Pentagon says there were about 1,000 incidents a week over the past three months.
Insurgents and sectarian militias are responsible for the attacks. But stemming the violence depends on national reconciliation, says Lieutenant General Martin Dempsey who briefed reporters Tuesday. He said isolating and eliminating these extremists is key.
"The way you get at militias is to isolate the extreme ends of it. There's a big pile of people in the middle here in Iraq who are engaged in essentially in a political fight to determine how to take the country forward,” said the general. “But on flanks of that, on the Sunni side and the Shia side, make no mistake about it, there's a core of extremists who have no desire for that political process in the middle to work."
General Dempsey said training of Iraqi security forces is being stepped up, and he predicted they will make real progress in stemming the violence. "I think the progress you'll see among the legitimate Iraqi security forces here over the next six months will be dramatic."
Meanwhile, President Bush is reported to be considering temporarily deploying more troops to Iraq. The idea would be to send up to 30,000 more soldiers to Iraq for six to eight months, to help bring down the violence -- especially in Baghdad.
But the proposal is reported to be meeting resistance from the U.S. Joints Chiefs of Staff, which is headed by General Peter Pace. The Washington Post reports the U.S. military commanders disagree with the surge deployment proposal, because the military mission in Iraq is not clearly defined.
White House spokesman Tony Snow Tuesday dismissed the report. "Without commenting on any specific ideas that may be discussed, I won't do that, I can tell you the notion that somehow there is some sort of feud between the president and the joints chiefs would be wrong."
At one time, U.S. officials spoke of reducing troop strength in Iraq by the end of 2006. But it is now clear the year is ending with violence on the rise and no easy solutions in sight for the U.S. strategy in Iraq.