- The Washington Times - Friday, May 19, 2006

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The key to reducing American casualties in Iraq is getting a government that can revive the economy, “take the angry young men off the street” and give them an alternative to violence, the second-ranking U.S. general in Iraq said yesterday.

“I honestly believe that, as this government begins work on the policies that will be required to put people to work and make use of the vast resources of Iraq, that you’re going to see a decrease in violence,” Army Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, commander of Multi-national Corps Iraq, said in a video teleconference with reporters at the Pentagon.

At least 126 U.S. troops have died in Iraq over the past month and a half, marking the deadliest period since last fall — even as Iraq’s U.S.-trained security forces have been taking more of the lead role in fighting the insurgency.

Most combat deaths are caused by roadside bombs, which the military calls improvised explosive devices, or IEDs. Gen. Chiarelli said U.S. troops are getting better at finding IEDs before they explode, but added that “many times, when we don’t find them, it is catastrophic.”

Gen. Chiarelli said Iraq faced a “historical and decisive moment” with the announced plan to swear in a new prime minister and his Cabinet today. “We are standing by to help the Iraqis in any way we can as they build strong and capable institutions of governance and rule of law that can promote economic growth and prosperity,” he said.

Gen. Chiarelli said the insurgents are trying to take advantage of what he called a period of vulnerability for Iraqi leaders as they seek to establish a unity government and gain credibility in the eyes of ordinary Iraqis.

The insurgents and terrorists have indicated again through their acts of violence “that they are going to do everything they possibly can to destabilize that government.”

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