A new Pentagon report said some elements of the war in Iraq fit the definition of civil war, but the term "does not adequately capture the complexity of the conflict."
The war in Iraq has been characterized by fighting between the majority Shiite Muslim sect and the minority Sunni Muslims, who were in power under Saddam Hussein's regime.
But the report also cites Shiite-on-Shiite violence; al Qaeda and Sunni insurgent attacks on coalition forces; and "widespread criminally motivated violence" as features that complicate the designation of civil war.
The quarterly report, mandated by Congress, said attacks and casualties documented for the last three months of 2006 are the highest since the war began four years ago.
The document, dated March 2, was released on Wednesday.
The congressional report cites declassified parts of the recently released National Intelligence Estimate in discussing the question.
It defines "the hardening of ethno-sectarian identities and mobilization, the changing character of the violence, and population displacements," as characteristic of civil war.
The report says warfare in Iraq has morphed from a "predominantly Sunni-led insurgency against foreign occupation to a struggle for the division of political and economic influence among sectarian groups and organized criminal activity." (Read about earlier Pentagon report)
It said the numbers of "attacks on and casualties suffered by coalition forces, the ISF [Iraqi security forces], and Iraqi civilians for the October-December reporting period were the highest for any three-month period since 2003."
The report said the attacks were concentrated in Baghdad and in Anbar, Salaheddin, and Diyala provinces, with a record 45 attacks a day in Baghdad. Compared with Baghdad, levels of attacks elsewhere were low.
"Coalition forces continued to attract the majority of attacks, while the ISF and Iraqi civilians continued to suffer the majority of casualties. Casualties from these attacks decreased slightly in January, but remained troublingly high."
The report said data collected includes "violence reported to or observed by coalition forces," so the report gives only a "partial picture of the violence experienced by Iraqis."
The report cites U.N. civilian casualty estimates reported by hospitals. "For the month of December, the U.N. estimated that more than 6,000 civilians were killed or wounded. This is about twice as many casualties as were recorded by coalition forces."
More aviation support
Defense Secretary Robert Gates has signed orders to speed up the deployment of 3,000 additional troops to Iraq, CNN has learned.
The troops primarily will be responsible for providing airborne support for the 20 brigades of ground combat forces.
The troop increase brings the number of additional forces being deployed to Iraq to more than 31,000, nearly 10,000 more than the number President Bush initially said would be needed for the "surge."
The troops will be deployed in May, 45 days earlier than planned.
In the first concrete sign that the higher level of ground forces may last into next year, the Pentagon is considering extending the tour of duty for several more units, according to military officials.
The Senate rejected on Thursday a resolution that would have set a timetable for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq. The resolution, sponsored by Majority Leader Harry Reid, would have directed the Bush administration to begin phased troop withdrawal within 120 days of enactment and would have set a goal of troop withdrawal by March 31, 2008, with the exception of certain missions. The vote was 48 in favor and 50 opposed. Sixty votes were needed for the resolution to pass.
Two roadside bombs killed four U.S. soldiers Thursday as they were returning from operations in eastern Baghdad, the military said. The first device detonated near the vehicles, and the second detonated shortly after the initial blast, killing the four soldiers. Two others were wounded, the military said. The deaths bring to 3,207 the number of U.S. troops killed since the war in Iraq began.
One of Iraq's two vice presidents, Adel Abdul Mahdi, visited President Bush at the White House on Thursday. Mahdi, the target of a recent assassination attempt, thanked Americans for their support of Iraq, and Bush praised his courage and his "vision of peace and reconciliation." "We are not finished, but we are doing better than expected" in the Baghdad security crackdown, he said.
U.S.-led coalition forces killed an Iraqi soldier and wounded three others during a Thursday morning raid targeting al Qaeda in Iraq network in Mosul, a U.S. military statement said. The possible "friendly fire" incident is under investigation. The military said ground forces and a helicopter came under small arms fire from armed men in two buildings. After the shooting was over, the armed men were identified as Iraqi soldiers, the statement said. In other raids Wednesday night and Thursday, coalition forces killed two suspected terrorists and detained 11 others.
An Iraqi appeals court upheld the death sentence of former Saddam Hussein deputy Taha Yassin Ramadan for his role in the 1982 killing of 148 men and boys in Dujail, Iraq, after a failed assassination attempt on Hussein. Ramadan, who was Hussein's vice president, will be hanged, according to a member of the nine-judge court panel -- who emphasized the decision was final.
At least five people were killed and 21 wounded when a parked car packed with explosives detonated Thursday morning next to a minibus in Iskandiriya, south of Baghdad, police said. The vehicle was carrying employees of the state-run National Car Industry Co. Police also said the manager of the company was shot dead this past week, while driving to work.
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