Attacks on US forces in Iraq by militia have fallen sharply thanks to US and Iraqi military operations and political engagement by Baghdad, the top US military officer said on Monday.
Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, did not elaborate on the specific steps taken in response to a wave of attacks that made June the deadliest month for US forces in Iraq since 2008.
But he told reporters shortly before landing in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul that US and Iraqi operations as well as actions by Iraqi political leaders appear to have been successful at stemming the attacks for now.
“We’ve done this. The Iraqi security forces have done it. The political leadership has addressed it. And so you’ve seen in the last two to three weeks a dramatic reduction in that (violence),” Mullen said.
“I’m still in the wait-and-see mode to see whether or not this can be sustained.”
Fourteen US service members were killed in hostile incidents in June, with most of the deaths attributed by US officials to rocket attacks by militias.
New US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta, on a trip to Baghdad on July 11, said the United States would take unilateral action if necessary to deal with the threat to American troops in Iraq from militias.
Mullen declined to say whether the United States had taken any such action.
Deadly violence in Iraq declined slightly in July from the previous month but still marked the second-highest death toll for the year, data published on Monday showed.
The latest figures come days after a US watchdog warned that Iraq was a more dangerous country than a year ago ahead of a “summer of uncertainty” in which politicians in Baghdad have to decide whether to retain an American military presence beyond a year-end withdrawal deadline for US forces.
Figures compiled by the ministries of health, interior and defence showed that a total of 259 Iraqis — 159 civilians, 56 policemen and 44 soldiers — died as a result of attacks last month.
The overall toll represented a slight drop from June’s figure of 271 killed, but remained the second-highest monthly death toll. A total of 259 people were also killed in January.