ARLINGTON, Va. — Attacks against U.S. and coalition troops fell between February and May, but casualties are up, according to a new report measuring progress in Iraq.

The Defense Department released the quarterly report mandated by Congress late Wednesday.

The report shows an average of 744 attacks against U.S. troops and other coalition forces per week from Feb. 10 to May 4. That is down slightly from the average of 756 attacks per week against U.S. and other coalition troops from Jan. 1 to Feb. 9.

However, average casualties for U.S. troops and coalition partners rose from 22 to 25 per day during the same period, the report shows. It does not break down casualties by killed and wounded in action.

The report also notes that attacks by Explosively Formed Penetrators hit an “all-time high” in April, but it gives no numbers on the attacks.

Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was reported in USA Today as saying there were 69 such attacks in April.

On the security front, the report showed a sharp decrease nationwide in sectarian murders per month from more than 1,600 in December to about 600 in March — with murders rising slightly above 600 in April.

But the report was released on the same day that terrorists bombed the Askariya shrine in Samarra for the second time since February 2006. The first attacked sparked the current wave of sectarian violence.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the attack appears to be another attempt by al Qaida to provoke sectarian violence and prevent political reconciliation in Iraq.

“My hope is that, that their intentions are so clear that people will refrain from violence because they understand that al Qaida is — that would just be carrying out what al Qaida wants,” Gates said.

The report covers the period including the beginning of the buildup of U.S. troop strength in Iraq by 28,700 known as the “surge.”

The report notes that efforts to restore security in Baghdad have caused insurgents to move into Diyala and Ninewa provinces and other areas outside Baghdad.

Meanwhile, the Mahdi Army, the Shiite militia nominally under the control of anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, remained the “de facto government in Sadr City,” the report says.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has pledged that the Iraqi government will go after all terrorists and militias, and government officials will not interfere with security operations, the report says.

“To date, operations in Baghdad indicate that Iraqi government delivery on these commitments have been uneven,” the report says. “For example, there have been reports of political involvements by some leaders in tactical and operational decision that bypass the standard chain of command. In addition, sectarian-based decisions have been made within the Iraqi government and its military and police forces.”

One of the report’s conclusions is that it is too early to determine whether the “surge” is working. In September, the overall U.S. commander in Iraq is expected to give lawmakers a report on how well the “surge” is working.

Asked about the most recent progress report, Middle East scholar Wayne White said he agreed that the jury is still out on the “surge,” but he was not optimistic that the troop increase would work.

White, former head of the State Department’s Iraq intelligence team, said he recommended a 64,000-troop “surge” to the Iraq Study Group last year, but said even with that many troops, the move only had a 50/50 shot of working.

With far fewer troops in Iraq than he recommended, “I do not think in September we will have the success that will encourage people that we have turned the corner in all of this,” he said.

Not only are there not enough U.S. troops in place to secure Baghdad, but the U.S. military has had to troops efforts from Baghdad to outlying areas when insurgents simply “flanked” the security crackdown in Baghdad, White said.

“It’s not a pretty picture,” he said.

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