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US responds to rise in Iraqi violence

Resurgence in attacks comes as US plans to shift troops

The U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. Ray Odierno, blamed the wave of fresh violence on “small and decentralized” Al Qaeda cells, and promised that U.S. troops “will assist the government of Iraq (in) going after these networks and these individuals.”

Odierno told Pentagon reporters that he still believes the United States will meet its goal of withdrawing American combat units from Iraq’s urban centers by the end of June.

The exception, he said — “the one area I’m not sure about” — is Mosul, Iraq’s third largest city.

Odierno acknowledged concerns about security in Iraq, but noted that the latest tactics — terrorists using women as bombers, and in one case a woman holding a child by the hand — are difficult to combat.

On the other hand, the cruelty of such tactics alienate Iraqis, Odierno said. “Al Qaeda is not getting the response they want.”

Clinton did not rush to Iraq for emergency consultations: Her trip there this weekend was unannounced, but pre-planned.

Yet, like President Barack Obama’s quick stop in Iraq earlier this month, Clinton’s visit was intended to assure the Iraqis that the U.S. has not forgotten them, and to keep a close watch on events there.

With a renewed commitment of forces to Afghanistan, and a newly aggressive Taliban in Pakistan, a return to the levels of previous violence in Iraq is the last thing the Obama administration needs as it pushes Congress for billions of dollars to fund military and civic operations in those three countries.

“We are committed to Iraq; we want to see a stable, sovereign and self-reliant Iraq,” Clinton told Iraqis at a town meeting.

Clinton met with the new U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Christopher Hill, and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, in Iraq, and conferred and held a press conference with Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.

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