As Iraqi national elections on March 7 approach, violence and political discord in the country have escalated dramatically.
On February 22, Gen. Ray Odierno, the top US commander in Iraq, announced that the US was preparing contingency plans to delay the withdrawal of all combat forces from Iraq if violence or political instability increases after the national elections scheduled for March 7.
There are approximately 96,000 US military personnel in Iraq. Under President Obama’s current plan, which is a continuation of George W. Bush’s policy in Iraq, the stated intention is to cut the number of US troops in Iraq to 50,000 by August 31.
The US government plans to keep at least 50,000 troops in Iraq indefinitely, as a so-called training force for Iraqi security forces.
On February 22 alone, the same day General Odierno made his comments, at least 44 Iraqis and one US soldier were killed as attacks raged across Iraq. In one of the attacks, a female suicide bomber killed 22 people and wounded 33 others in an attack at the home of a police commissioner in Balad Ruz. In another, three mortar rounds struck the so-called Green Zone in Baghdad, wounding at least six people.
The attacks have drawn comparisons by Iraqi analysts to rampant attacks that occurred during the sectarian bloodshed that ravaged Iraq between 2006-2007.