The new American commander in Iraq said Thursday that the reinforcements pouring into Baghdad will stay "well beyond the summer" and warned there is no military solution to conflict.
According to AFP, General David Petraeus added that Iraqi leaders would eventually have to sit down and talk with some of the armed factions. At his first news conference since taking charge of US-led forces in Iraq, Petraeus conveyed he felt "shame, horror and sorrow" when he heard of a suicide attack on Tuesday that killed at least 117 Shiite pilgrims.
He said "thugs with no souls" were carrying out atrocities to derail Operation Fardh al-Qanoon (Imposing Law), launched with 90,000 Iraqi and American soldiers last month in an attempt to quell sectarian violence in Baghdad.
The general cautioned against expecting too much from the military and warned the security plan would take months to complete. "There is no military solution to a problem like that in Iraq," the general commented in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone. "Military action is necessary to help improve security... but it is not sufficient."
Political talks involving all groups, including those opposed to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's government "will determine in the long run the success of this effort," he said.
Petraeus said one of five additional army brigades was already in place, another was partially deployed and the rest -- along with two extra battalions of marines -- would be in country by June.
Asked about reports that his second in command, General Raymond Odiernom, believed that the extra forces would be needed until early 2008, Petraeus said the timeframe had yet to be decided. "I think you generally think that if you're going to achieve the kind of effects that we probably need, I would think it would need to be sustained certainly some time well beyond the summer," he said.
Meanwhile, Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose whereabouts remain a mystery, renewed his demand on Thursday that US forces should leave. In a message distributed by his office in Najaf to observe the Arbaeen holiday, Sadr told his countrymen: "Raise your voices shouting 'No, no to America. No, no to Israel'."
Security officials said six people were killed in other parts of the country on Thursday, including two policemen who died when a car bomb went off in the northern city of Mosul.