The top U.S. military officer says there are indications that the Iraqi people want the new Baghdad security plan to work, but he and Defense Secretary Robert Gates both also said that while the plan is going well so far, it is too early to predict success. VOA's Al Pessin reports from the Pentagon.
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace, told a Pentagon news conference that although large-scale bombings have increased in and around Baghdad in recent weeks, he is encouraged that smaller-scale attacks have decreased.
"The murders between Sunni and Shi'ia are down," said General Pace. "The numbers of bombs that have gone off killing large numbers has gone up. With just those few data points, it means to me potentially that the Iraqi people do want to stop killing each other, but that the al-Qaida wants to find ways to get them to start killing each other again."
General Pace said he only has those two bits of information, but he was encouraged by what he sees so far.
At the same news conference, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said there are some "very preliminary positive signs" in the early stages of implementing the Baghdad security plan, and the increase in bombings did not surprise him.
"I think that we expected that there would, in the short term, an increase in violence as the surge began to make itself felt, as the Baghdad security plan began to be implemented," said Secretary Gates.
Secretary Gates said the Iraqi government continues to meet its commitments in the security operation's early stages, but he said no one is getting "too enthusiastic" because this is still the "very beginning" of the effort.
President Bush announced the new Baghdad security plan in January, including an increase of 21,500 U.S. troops.
Secretary Gates said Wednesday another 2,400 support troops will also be needed. He also said he has approved a request from the new Iraq commander, General David Petraeus, for an additional 2,200 military policemen to help guard what the general expects will be an increased number of detainees in coming months. Secretary Gates said General Petraeus has also made some other troop requests, which senior military officers are now analyzing.
General Pace said a goal set last year to hand over all Iraqi provinces to local control by the end of this year is still realistic, although the insurgents could affect the process. He said three of Iraq's 18 provinces have already been put under local control, and three more are nearly ready. He said the process is on track, under the supervision of an Iraqi government committee.