The top U.S. military commander for the Middle East says the United States must confront Islamic extremism, or face the prospect of World War III.

In a speech Friday, U.S. Army General John Abizaid compared the ideology to the rise of fascism in the 1920s and 1930s that led to World War II.

Abizaid says finding a peaceful solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict and containing Iran are key to bringing stability to the Middle East.  He repeated his conviction that U.S. forces must stay in Iraq to help defeat the insurgency and quell sectarian violence that is plaguing the country.

The general insists the U.S. has not lost the war in Iraq, and blames media coverage for the eroding support among the American public.

During his appearance before the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee Wednesday, Abizaid rejected the idea of setting a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq.  He told lawmakers he was optimistic the country could be stabilized, despite the mounting violence. 

He also rejected a proposal by Republican Party Senator John McCain to send more U.S. troops into Iraq, saying Iraqi forces will rely too much on the U.S. if there are too many American troops combating the insurgency.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.