Reconstruction projects based on US experience in Afghanistan are to begin in Iraq next month, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said.
Reconstruction is beginning even with no end to the violence in sight
Joint civil and military reconstruction teams will work across the country to train police, set up courts and ensure local services are up and running.
Ms Rice said the US planned to clear areas under rebel control, secure them and build durable institutions.
She was giving testimony to the US Senate's foreign relations committee."
"Our strategy is to clear, hold and build," she said.
"The enemy's strategy is to infect, terrorise and pull down."
US Provincial Reconstruction Teams, as they are known, began work in Afghanistan after the ousting of the Taleban government in 2001 by US-backed forces.
Iraq's different communities, she added, must work together to build a new, lasting democracy and its government must prove itself in office.
Results are still awaited from last week's referendum on a new constitution for the country.
The US secretary of state also challenged Iran and Syria to halt cross-border infiltration.
'Give us a plan'
She argued that it was a sign of progress that Iraqis were "taking over responsibility for some of the toughest places".
About 140,000 US troops currently serve in Iraq and Senators asked Ms Rice about when American forces could begin withdrawing.
"I don't want to hazard what I think would be a guess, even if it were an assessment of when that might be possible," she replied.
Senator Dick Lugar, chairman of the committee and a fellow Republican, said America needed to be kept better informed.
"We are engaged in a difficult mission in Iraq and the president and Congress must be clear with the American people about the stakes involved and the difficulties yet to come," he said.
Democratic Senator Joseph Biden said no one was suggesting the US should pull out immediately but they wanted a steer.
"What's the plan, Stan? Tell us," he told Ms Rice. "We are not setting timetables and saying cut and run. We are saying: 'Give us a plan'."