At least 89 American servicemembers have died in Iraq, ranking October the deadliest month this year. Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said he still thought the United States should continue focusing on reducing the number of troops, although he would not hesitate to ask for more troops if needed, the Associated Press reported.
Casey made his remarks at a press conference with U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad in Baghdad.
Khalilzad said, according to the AP, that Iraqi leaders have agreed to come up with a timeline by the end of the year for progress, but the United States needs to redouble its efforts toward success in Iraq.
The envoy did not provide details of the plan, but mentioned areas in which success would be measured, such as dividing the country’s oil wealth among religious and ethnic groups.
Speaking in Washington, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley told National Public Radio that the Iraqi government has begun to make difficult decisions but added, “I think they’ve got to do more and they’ve got to do [it] faster. And I think if you talk to Prime Minister Maliki, he would say the same thing.”
Iraqis have taken the lead in two southern provinces but have been slower in other areas, particularly the capital Baghdad and volatile regions to the north and west.
Both officials criticized neighboring Iran and Syria for trying to undermine American attempts to stabilize Iraq, with Casey saying the countries have been “decidedly unhelpful.”
Violence has escalated during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, and Casey said the Iraqi army has lost 300 members during that period, the AP reported.
The U.S. military announced the death of two more Marines, bringing to 89 the number of American losses in October. And there is still no word on a U.S. soldier, who was reported missing Monday.