Sharp rise in Iraq violence: Pentagon
Live Punjab News Service
Washington -- Attacks in Iraq have risen sharply during the last three months, with most attacks coming against US troops, the Pentagon has said in a report.
Violence was up 22 percent and 68 percent of the attacks were directed at US forces, but Iraqis suffered the "overwhelming majority" of casualties, said the US military's quarterly report to Congress.
Nearly 3,000 American soldiers have died in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion, and the US military has been unable to defeat the insurgency or stop sectarian violence that has brought the country to the verge of all-out civil war.
The deteriorating situation in Iraq contributed to the defeat of US President George W. Bush's Republican Party in Congressional elections Nov 7 and resulted in the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld as defence secretary.
Bush has faced mounting calls to withdraw the 140,000 US soldiers in Iraq, something he has flatly rejected.
Rumsfeld's replacement, Robert Gates, was sworn into office Monday and declared that the Iraq crisis was "at the top of the list".
"Failure in Iraq at this juncture would be a calamity that would haunt our nation, impair our credibility and endanger Americans for decades to come," Gates, 63, said in a ceremony at the Pentagon.
Bush dismissed Rumsfeld, a day after his party was defeated in the Congressional elections and began exploring a new policy for Iraq.
Bush intends to outline his new strategy in early January when his administration completes its review of the current policy and plots a fresh approach.
Gates served on a Congressionally appointed bipartisan commission assessing the situation in Iraq until Bush tapped him to replace Rumsfeld.
The panel, co-led by former secretary of state James Baker III, urged Bush to broaden his administration's diplomacy in the Middle East and begin pulling troops out of Iraq in early 2008 if the security environment improves. It also calls for direct dialogue with Iran and Syria to enlist their help in quelling the violence - an option Bush has already rejected.
The Pentagon report said 45,000 Iraqi security forces were trained during the last three months, bringing the total to over 322,000, but warned that little progress was being made on Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's effort to reconcile the grudge between Sunnis and Shias.