IRBIL, Iraq — Nearly two years after the U.S. troop withdrawal, Iraq is in the midst of a deepening security crisis as an al-Qaida affiliate wages a relentless campaign of attacks, sending the death toll soaring to its highest level since 2008.
In the latest violence, nine car bombs tore through markets and police checkpoints in Baghdad on Sunday, killing scores of people.
The bloody campaign has virtually erased the security gains made in the past five years. More than 5,300 Iraqis have been killed this year.
Sunday's attacks occurred just three days before Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is scheduled to arrive in Washington for meetings at the White House and on Capitol Hill. At the top of his agenda is a request for more U.S. help in the fight against an affiliate of al-Qaida, whose scope has grown to encompass neighboring Syria as well.
"We need to increase the depth and width of our cooperation, to be more agile and reflect the seriousness of the situation in Iraq," Iraq's ambassador to Washington, Lukman Faily, said in a telephone interview. "In our discussions, we will highlight the urgent need for the approval and quick delivery of military sales."
At least 40 people died in Sunday's attacks on mostly Shiite neighborhoods in Baghdad, according to an Interior Ministry official, who was not authorized to be quoted by name. In addition, a suicide bomber plowed his car into a group of soldiers in the northern city of Mosul, killing 14, according to a local police official.
The surge in violence is largely, though not exclusively, due to attacks by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, an outgrowth of al-Qaida in Iraq. The group is trying to undermine the Iraqi state through a relentless campaign of car bombings and killings.