US sends more troops to Iraq

Security forces alone cannot solve the problem of sectarian violence in Iraq, the new US security commander in the country has said.

Speaking at his first news conference since taking over the role last month, General Petraeus said further political progress was needed to reconcile the country’s divisions.

“There is no military solution to a problem like that in Iraq, to the insurgency of Iraq,” he said.

His comments come as US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said an extra 2,200 military police are being sent to Iraq to support Baghdad’s security crackdown.

They are in addition to the 21,500 combat troops already committed to the Baghdad security plan and the 2,400 troops earmarked to support them.

Mr Gates also said it was not a surprise that Sunni insurgents have launched increased attacks in recent days.

“I think that we expected that there would be in the short term an increase in violence as the surge began to make itself felt,” Mr Gates said.

He added that there were other “very preliminary positive signs” that the Baghdad security plan is working.