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Attacks Outpace Iraqis' Ability to Restore Order - 2004-07-28

The Pentagon says Wednesday's devastating car bombing in Iraq, where at least 68 people were killed in the deadliest attack since last month's handover of power in Baghdad, is another example of how far Iraqis are from being able to safeguard their own country.

U.S. military officials describe the latest car bombing, which took place near a police recruiting center in Baquba, as another example of the campaign by insurgents to intimidate the newly sovereign Iraqi government.

"Those who would serve in the security forces and of course the leadership of the country," said General Norton Schwartz of the Pentagon's Joint Chiefs of Staff. "The development of Iraqi sovereignty is a threat to those who would like to see another arrangement and so they are undertaking those efforts that they think might be effective in unhinging that transition."

U.S. officials had hoped that last month's handover of power to an interim Iraqi government would lead to a decline in insurgent and terrorist attacks, but that has not happened. What's more, Wednesday's bombing occurred just days before Iraqis are set to convene a national conference as part of the transition to democracy.

Pentagon spokesman Larry Di Rita warns Iraqi security forces are still far from being up to the task of handling security.

"I don't think there's any question but that people want to see more Iraqis doing this and first and foremost," he added. "The U.S. military would like to see more Iraqis providing for their own security. We're a long way from Iraqi security forces being able to secure that country."

Some 225,000 Iraqi forces have now been trained and equipped by the U.S.-led coalition. Eventually, Iraqi forces are expected to take complete responsibility for their country's security. Meanwhile, 140,000 American troops continue to patrol Iraq as extensively as they did before last month's hand over of power.