“January through September 2006 will be the peak period of the insurgency and the bottom rung of the new Iraq,” McCaffrey told the Senate foreign relations committee.
“The positive trend lines following the January 2006 elections — if they continue — will likely permit the withdrawal of US combat forces by late summer of 2006,” he said.
Gen McCaffrey formerly taught at the West Point military academy, and conducted a week-long fact-finding tour of Iraq a month ago.
“With 250,000 Iraqi security forces successfully operating in support of a government which includes substantial Sunni participation the energy will start rapidly draining out of the insurgency by next summer, in my judgment,” he said.
Meanwhile 18 people were killed in Iraq on Monday, mostly policemen, after a three-day bombing frenzy.
A top US military official has warned of increased violence in the days ahead.
US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Richard Myers warned of more bloodshed as Iraq prepares for elections later this year.
Gen Myers, speaking in Berlin where he was meeting with German military officials, said that such attacks are difficult to explain.
“Clearly, there is going to be more violence ahead because there are people who don’t want progress to happen,” he said.
He nevertheless insisted that Iraq is stabilising and better off than under Saddam Hussein.
Meanwhile a donors’ meeting in Jordan has listened to calls from Iraq for the international community to play a greater role in rebuilding the country, still plagued by a lack of basic utilities.
The World Bank announced plans to provide Iraq with US$500 million in soft loans over the next two years to finance development projects in priority sectors.
“This lending package is the first to be extended by the World Bank to Iraq since 1973,” the World Bank statement said.
Iraqi Planning Minister Barham Saleh had earlier called for a greater international involvement in reconstruction.
Despite efforts made to date “the basic needs for Iraq, from electricity to water, have not been met”, he said, noting for example that Iraq was running on 5,000 megawatts of electricity daily when it needs 20,000 megawatts.
The plea for help in getting the crippled nation back on its feet came as more than 130 people were killed in attacks since Friday, including 83 who died when a suicide bomber Saturday blew up a propane gas tanker in Al-Musayyib, south of the capital, one of the deadliest since the fall of Saddam Hussein.
At least 18 people were killed in the latest incidents including two car bombs against US military convoys.
Eight of the victims were police while other included six army personnel.