Ali Yussef  /  AFP - Getty Images
Members of the Iraqi National Police patrol in Baghdad on Thursday. Defense Secretary Robert Gates complemented Iraq for meeting their troop commitments.
updated 3/8/2007 6:47:58 AM ET 2007-03-08T11:47:58

The Pentagon has approved a request by the new U.S. commander in Iraq for an extra 2,200 military police to help deal with an anticipated increase in detainees during the Baghdad security crackdown, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Wednesday.

Gates also cited early indications that the Iraqi government is meeting the commitments it made to bolster security, although he cautioned that it was too early to reach any firm conclusions about the outcome.

“We’re right at the very beginning,” he told a Pentagon news conference. “But I would say that based in terms of whether the Iraqis are meeting the commitments that they’ve made to us in the security arena, I think that our view would be so far, so good.” He was referring to the movement of additional Iraqi troops into the capital.

Gates said that the request for extra MPs is in addition to the 21,500 combat troops that President Bush is sending for the Baghdad security plan and 2,400 other troops designated to support them.

Gordon England, the deputy defense secretary, told Congress earlier this week that the number of required support troops could reach 7,000.

“That’s a new requirement by a new commander,” Gates said of the request for more MPs by Gen. David Petraeus, who assumed command in Baghdad last month. He added that there were other troop requests still being considered in the Pentagon; he gave no specifics.

Gates 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,” Gates said, adding that there were other “very preliminary positive signs” that the Baghdad security plan is working.

Joining Gates at the news conference, Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that in recent days the number of sectarian murders was down slightly and the number of car bombings was up.

“So I think you see potentially the Iraqi people wanting to take advantage of this opportunity and the enemy wanting to keep it going,” Pace said.

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