A U.S. official has warned that Iraq is more dangerous than a year ago, raising questions about Washington's plans to withdraw its last 47,000 troops from the country by the end of 2011.
U.S. Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart W. Bowen Junior said the killing of U.S. soldiers and senior Iraqi figures was on the rise and attacks in Baghdad were increasing, the BBC reported.
The report contradicts usually upbeat assessments from the U.S. military about the security environment ahead of the withdrawal, the BBC added.
"Iraq remains an extraordinarily dangerous place to work," Bowen concluded in his quarterly report to Congress. "It is less safe, in my judgment, than 12 months ago."
Iraqi security forces will have to assume the full responsibility for security once U.S. combat troops leave, a task some analysts believe is beyond them.
Bowen noted that June was the worst month for U.S. casualties in Iraq in two years, with 15 soldiers killed.
Meanwhile more Iraqi officials were being assassinated than ever before, he added.
Shia militias -- "possibly armed and trained by Iran" -- are suspected of launching more attacks on U.S. soldiers and firing rockets at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, Bowen wrote in the report according to The New York Times.
The northeastern province of Diyala bordering Iran is "very unstable", the report said.
"In July meetings about the security situation the province’s chief prosecutor remarked that every time he steps outside his house, it ‘is a walk into the unknown,’" the report said.
Bowen said the U.S. was guilty of trying to downplay the violence, citing an army statement in May describing security trends as "very, very positive."
The inspector said this claim was only true if the situation was compared to 2007 at the height of the insurgency.
Amid concerns about rampant corruption, the report noted that the State Department had thwarted his office’s attempts to audit its development program, The New York Times reported.