Thousands of U.S. troops being redeployed to Baghdad will try to tamp down growing sectarian violence in Iraq’s capital using a “neighborhood-to-neighborhood approach,” said National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley.
Mr. Hadley said the goal is to expand Iraqi security forces’ control within Baghdad by working with locals to identify and pursue “purveyors of violence” and to give “some reassurance to the population there that in a way, the sheriff has arrived and it’s going to calm down.”
Details of the new security plan, which President Bush announced yesterday, are being worked out by Gen. George Casey, commander of the multinational forces in Iraq, and the Iraqi defense and interior ministers.
The new Baghdad force will be culled from the 127,000 troops deployed throughout Iraq, and the effort is not expected to result in a call for additional U.S. forces to be sent to Iraq, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said.
Additional equipment and weapons aimed at increasing the mobility and protection of the Iraqi security forces will be sent, and efforts to prevent infiltration of the Iraqi forces by insurgents will be increased, Mr. Hadley said.
He said al Qaeda has been trying for some time to provoke violence between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims. The February bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra, a Shi’ite holy place, touched off a wave of sectarian fighting in Iraq.
“You’ve now seen the emergence of death squads and armed groups on right and left, and they’re doing great damage to the civilian population,” Mr. Hadley said. “That’s really what is new. It’s something that we’ve seen occur since February, and it is a new challenge.”
Mr. Whitman said the security plan was developed in the past several weeks in response to escalating attacks in Baghdad, including shootings of civilians and vehicular and roadside bombings.
Mr. Whitman said the security situation in other parts of Iraq is better, with 14 of the 18 provinces “relatively stable.”
“One of the provinces that is not includes Baghdad,” he said, noting that it has the largest population center in Iraq.