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ARLINGTON, Va. — Violence in Iraq is at the highest level on record, according to the most recent report measuring progress in Iraq.

The Defense Department released the congressionally mandated quarterly report late Friday.

The number of average weekly attacks in Iraq rose to 959 in November, a roughly 22 percent increase in weekly attacks since August, the report shows.

Of those attacks, 648 were against U.S. troops and coalition partners, 194 were against Iraqi security forces, and 117 were against Iraqi civilians, according to the Defense Department.

Anbar Province saw the greatest number of attacks, followed closely by Baghdad, the report says. The other two provinces where most attacks took place are Salah ad Din and Diyala.

The four provinces are home to 37 percent of the population but account for 78 percent of the attacks, while outside of the Sunni Triangle, more than 90 percent of Iraqis say they feel safe, the report says. Still, the Iraqis are concerned about the possibility of civil war.

In another development, the Mahdi Army, nominally under the control of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr, has replaced al-Qaida as the most dangerous group in Iraq promoting sectarian violence, the report says.

“The most significant development in the Iraqi security environment was the growing role of Shia militants,” the report says. “It is likely that Shia militants were responsible for more civilian casualties than those associated with terrorist organizations. Shia militants were the most significant threat to the coalition presence in Baghdad and southern Iraq.”

Operations in Baghdad over the summer initially led to a dramatic reduction in death squad killings, but the death squads adapted, relocated and continued killing, in some cases with help from Iraqi police officers, the report says.

“During September, the levels of sectarian violence and civilian casualties increased and in some cases almost returned to the levels seen in July,” the report says. “The Shia death squads leveraged support from some elements of the Iraq Police Service and National Police, who facilitated freedom of movement and provided advance warning of upcoming operations. This is a major reason for the increased levels of murders and executions.”

Officials had no figures on how often Iraqi police were complicit in such killings.

“I don’t think we have a number; I don’t know what to tell you,” Assistant Secretary of Defense Peter Rodman told reporters Monday.

Marine Lt. Gen. John Sattler, of the Joint Staff, said officials are tackling the issue of Iraqi police complacency in death squad killings through retraining and a vetting process.

The number of Iraqi police battalions in the lead increased from two to five since August, said Army Lt. Col. Larry Reeves, also of the Joint Staff.

Since August, more than 45,000 Iraqi security forces have been trained and equipped, bringing the total number of Iraqi security forces to 322,600; however, not all of them are present for duty, the report says.

“The number of present-for-duty soldiers and police are much lower, due to scheduled leave, absence without leave and attrition,” the report says.

Iraqi army AWOL rates range from between 5 percent and 8 percent within normal operations, to more than 50 percent when Iraqi units are told to deploy outside their normal areas of operations, the report says.

Sattler estimated that about 280,000 Iraqi troops and police officers are available for duty, noting that about 30 percent of security forces are on leave at any given time to deposit their pay because Iraq lacks a banking system.

Meanwhile, about 2,000 Iraqis are leaving Iraq every day for Syria, and another 1,000 are leaving for Jordan, the report says. There are now about 700,000 Iraqis living in Jordan, about 600,000 in Syria, about 100,000 in Egypt, about 54,000 in Iran and between 20,000 to 40,000 are in Lebanon.

As the sectarian and criminal violence increases, Iraqi politicians have been unable to resolve their conflicts, while others join the political process but use violence as “political leverage,” the report says.

“This makes effective national reconciliation and disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration programs difficult to design and implement,” the report says.

Rodman called the report’s findings “true statements” but added that Iraqi officials are working on national reconciliation.

“You have the leaders of the major communities try to solve this politically, I mean that’s what they have to, that’s what they have to wrestle with,” he said.


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