Sanchez’s comments came shortly after a roadside bomb attack in the northern city of Mosul killed one US soldier and injured two others. The incident brought to 192 the number of US soldiers killed in hostile situations in Iraq since US President Bush called an end to major combat operations on 1 May.

Despite the continued attacks against US soldiers in Iraq, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who was in Baghdad for a one-day visit on 6 December, emphasised that the US’ military plans continued to be right for the situation. ‘I am convinced that the direction that we set from the outset is the right one and that is being executed exceedingly well, and that the security circumstances in the country will be passed over time to Iraqi security forces of various types, and that they will be able to do it,’ he said.