BAGHDAD -- Iraq is going through a critical stage that requires the utmost vigilance in view of the withdrawal of U.S. combat forces, a senior Iraqi security official has told RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq.
Major General Qasim al-Musawi, spokesman for the Baghdad Operations Command, said that Iraqi security forces were being trained to take over.
"Orders have been issued to the security forces to be on the highest state of vigilance and alert, especially at this critical stage as the US combat forces pull out of Iraq and Iraqi security forces prepare to assume full combat responsibility," Musawi said.
He spoke after Washington said this week the U.S. military in Iraq has cut its strength to under 50,000, ahead of a scheduled August 31 end to combat operations.
Musawi said an overall review of security plans was made and certain security measures reconsidered at a meeting of top security officials chaired by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki following bombing attacks in Baghdad and elsewhere on August 25. Bombers and gunmen killed over 50 Iraqis in over 20 separate attacks across the country.
Musawi said that terrorist groups "have been mobilizing to carry out such attacks at what everybody agrees is a sensitive stage in order to discredit the security forces on the one hand and undermine the political situation on the other."
He acknowledged that "terror cells are still active in parts of the country despite the severe blows delivered to the Al-Qaeda leadership."
Musawi said that "we expect terrorist activities to be stepped up in the coming period, but we have faith in the capability of the security forces and intelligence agencies to frustrate the enemy."
"This requires reconsideration of previous plans," he added.