WASHINGTON—Although U.S. military forces aren't giving up on defeating the insurgency in Iraq's Anbar province, their primary effort has shifted to quelling violence in Baghdad, the No. 2 American general in Iraq said Friday.
Lt. Gen. Pete Chiarelli acknowledged that a leaked classified intelligence report recommended that another division, about 10,000 to 15,000 troops, was needed to stabilize Anbar province, but he said the main effort now was to secure Baghdad. Some U.S. forces have been moved out of Anbar and other parts of Iraq and sent to Baghdad.
"That's what we're doing right now. We're going to continue to do that till we get the conditions in Baghdad where they need to be," Chiarelli said, speaking by teleconference from Iraq to reporters at the Pentagon.
Anbar province, which stretches west of Baghdad to the borders of Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, has long been a stronghold for the Sunni-led insurgency and al-Qaida fighters. The classified report, which was leaked this week, reportedly said that the political and security situation in the province had deteriorated so much that only more aid and another troop division could turn things around.
The commanding general of coalition forces in Anbar, Marine Maj. Gen. Richard Zilmer, said Tuesday that he had enough troops for his main mission, which was training and recruiting Iraqi forces, but would need more to win against the insurgency.
His comments and the classified report were among the first acknowledgements that more troops would be needed to defeat the insurgency in Anbar.
President Bush brought up Anbar on Friday in response to a reporter's question about whether Iraq was in a civil war. He said Anbar hadn't been lost, adding, "That's not what our commanders think."
"No question it's a dangerous place," the president said. "It's a place where al-Qaida is really trying to root themselves."
A U.S. Marine was killed in Anbar province Friday, and two soldiers were killed near Baghdad by a roadside bomb. Five U.S. troops were reported killed in Iraq on Thursday.
In its quarterly report to Congress earlier this month, the Pentagon said that although the struggle between Sunni and Shiite extremists seeking to control Baghdad was now the greatest threat to security in Iraq, the Sunni-led insurgency against coalition forces remained "potent and viable."
Chiarelli expressed dismay over the leak of the report, which was written by Marine Col. Pete Devlin, but he said its findings that more political and economic support were needed in the province were "right on target."
He said he didn't believe "there is any military strategy alone . . . that will create the conditions for victory which we must have."
Chiarelli said that when he asks governors and local officials what would help most to reduce the violence, "their number one answer, the thing they always tell us is, `Find jobs for the angry young men.'
"As quick as we can get that help out there to start working those economic conditions, I think that is, in fact, a strategy for victory," he said.
U.S. forces "will remain committed to the people of al Anbar and do everything possible to make their life better," he added.
Chiarelli said coalition forces had seen a 35 percent decrease in sectarian violence in the targeted Baghdad neighborhoods since security was tightened more than a month ago.
"I've been into every one of those areas," he said. "I've talked with the people. I've seen markets open up. I've seen people on the streets at times when there used not to be anyone on the streets."
Iraq's Ministry of Health reported earlier this month that more than 1,500 bodies were delivered to the Baghdad morgue in August, compared with 1,855 bodies that were reported delivered in July, an all-time high.
Coalition officials said their new figure, which shows the 35 percent decrease, didn't include victims from car bombings, mortar attacks or other mass-casualty violence.
Chiarelli said that opinions differ over what constitutes sectarian violence.
(c) 2006, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.