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A higher profile for Iraqi troops?

US is keen to show that Iraq's own forces can counter a wave of insurgent attacks.

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Continued US and Iraqi government military offensives in Iraq may reflect an overall attempt to restore the notion that time is running out for the Iraqi insurgency.

In recent months a continued surge in suicide bombing and other insurgent-spawned violence has swept away much of the positive feeling and political momentum generated by January's Iraqi election. US commanders have become increasingly reluctant to analyze when, or even if, the insurgents might be finally defeated.

Turning this trend around, and restoring the atmosphere of optimism, may well have become a top priority for both Washington and Iraq's new leaders. US officials in particular are keen to highlight progress in the development of Iraq's military, as the degree to which Iraq is taking part in its own defense appears to be a crucial determinant of American public attitudes towards the war.

"The US public is looking for success, and success to them means cooperating with the Iraqis," says Christopher Gelpi, a Duke University expert on public opinion about Iraq.

On Tuesday President Bush himself insisted that despite mounting casualties and such tragedies as the kidnapping and subsequent death of the Iraqi governor of Anbar province the Iraqi government is "plenty capable" of defeating the insurgents.

The January vote was a hinge of Iraq's history, insisted Mr. Bush. The upsurge in violence which followed it has stemmed from desperation on the part of those who see themselves on the eventual losing side.

"What the insurgents fear is democracy, because democracy is the [opposite] of their vision," said Bush in a Rose Garden appearance.

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