"Regrettably, some of these [terrorists] groups are still carrying out their barbaric acts," he said. "In fact, we believe that they have sought to intensify their sensational attacks in recent weeks to provoke renewed sectarian violence and derail Operation Fard al-Qanun [the new Iraq security plan] before it can be fully implemented."
But he said there had also been some encouraging signs recently. He said sectarian killings had been lowered in Baghdad in the last few weeks, and that sectarian deplacements were also down.
Earlier, the Pentagon said it had approved Petraeus's request for the deployment of 2,200 more U.S. military police for Baghdad, in addition to the 21,500 combat troops and 2,400 support troops that have already been ordered. The extra military police contingent is meant to help handle an
anticipated increase in people detained during the ongoing Baghdad
Petraeus said that U.S. and Iraqi troops "are steadily building their strength to support
the operation in Baghdad. The last of nine Iraqi surge battalions and the
second of five U.S. surge brigades have just entered Baghdad. This buildup will
continue throughout the spring, with all U.S. and Iraqi forces dedicated to the
mission in place by about early June."
Petraeus also said that at the same time, efforts are under way to double the number of civilian reconstruction teams in Iraq, from 10 to 20, with the focus on Baghdad and the Al-Anbar Governorate.
He also denounced the wave of recent attacks against Shi'ite pilgrims who are heading for a religious commemoration beginning on March 9 in the Shi'ite holy city of Karbala.
The attacks, mostly blamed on Sunni insurgents, have killed more than 150 pilgrims in the past three days.
(with material from AP, Reuters)
The Imam Al-Mahdi Army on parade (epa)
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THE COMPLETE PICTURE: Click on the image to view RFE/RL's complete coverage of events in Iraq and that country's ongoing transition.