Volesky, in a briefing in late March, said the U.S.-led coalition and
Iraqi forces have failed to defeat the Al Qaida network around Mosul. He
said Al Qaida would continue to challenge the Baghdad government as the U.S.
military prepares to withdraw.
Officials have acknowledged uncertainty over U.S. authority after June
30. They said several senior commanders have urged the Pentagon to delay a
withdrawal until the end of the year.
Al Qaida has been active in Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq. On
March 31, a suicide bomber blew up his truck at an Iraqi police checkpoint.
At least seven people, four of them police officers, were reported killed.
Officials said Al Qaida has accelerated major suicide strikes around
Mosul. On March 29, 15 people were injured in a car bombing in a market
outside the city.
Al Qaida has also escalated attacks in Baghdad and the Diyala province.
Officials said the attacks have been fueled by the defection of officers
from the former Sunni-dominated Al Sawha auxiliary police force to Al Qaida.
"The overall feeling is that the Americans are leaving, and it is time
to switch sides," an official said.
A Pentagon report released on March 31 reported a fragile security
situation in several key areas of Iraq. The quarterly report by the Pentagon
to Congress, titled "Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq," cited
difficulties in Baghdad as well as Diyala and Nineveh.
"Several threat groups remain dangerous and require continued focus to
prevent their resurgence," the report said. "The long-term threat remains
Iranian-sponsored Shi'a militant groups, Asa'ib Al Haq, Ketaib Hizbullah,
and unaligned Shi'a extremists, including the newly-formed Promised Day
Brigade. In addition, violent Sunni insurgent groups and Al Qaida in Iraq
are still a major security concern."
Still, the U.S. military has asserted that the level of attacks
throughout Iraq was the lowest since 2003. The military said weekly attacks
were down as much as 90 percent from 2007.
"Despite some of these positive developments, national reconciliation
continues to be hindered by the pursuit of ethno-sectarian agendas and
disagreement over the distribution of power and resources at all levels,"
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said on March 31.
Officials said the U.S. military has moved into a supporting role since
the security agreement between Baghdad and Washington was signed in January
2009. They said the Iraq Army has adjusted to playing a lead role in joint
patrols with American troops.
"We use the patrols as a tool to evaluate the skills the IA have been
learning," Lt. Travis Allard, a U.S. Army platoon commander, said.
Officials said the spate of Al Qaida bombings appears to have been
directed from outside Iraq, particularly Saddam loyalists in Syria. They
said some of the attacks could be fueled by the thousands of Al
Qaida-aligned suspects released by the U.S. military in 2008. At least one
former detainee was said to have rejoined his Al Qaida cell and was killed
in a suicide strike.
About 2,000 Al Qaida and other insurgents were said to be still
operating in Iraq. They said they included the revival of sleeper cells
loyal to Saddam.
"Al Qaida and the hard-core Saddamists are the main threats to the
national security of Iraq," Iraqi national security adviser Mowaffak Al
"What we are seeing is the resurgence of the hard-core
Saddamists, but using Al Qaida in Iraq as a front and as suicide bombers."