WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House is pushing back against critics who argue that the U.S. pullout from Iraq is to blame for escalating sectarian violence.
White House spokesman Jay Carney says the violence existed even when there were 150,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.
Carney says if critics think there should be U.S. troops on the ground in Fallujah, they should say so. He says President Barack Obama doesn't believe they should.
Escalating tensions in Iraq have raised U.S. concerns about al-Qaida taking firmer root inside the country, as insurgents challenge the government for control of territory.
Carney says the U.S. can assist but Iraq must take the lead and handle the conflict itself. He says the U.S. will send more surveillance drones and Hellfire missiles to Iraq this year.