Members of the Sunni insurgency have been reaching out to the new Iraqi government, giving U.S. military commanders opportunities to forge communications with the resistance groups, the top American commander in Iraq said Thursday.

Gen. George Casey said the U.S. military and the Iraqi government "have several different strands of contacts going on, and there are opportunities in that regard we just haven't had before."

Speaking to Pentagon reporters, Casey and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld also said Casey will not be able to recommend any new withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq until after he meets with new Iraq ministers and Cabinet members.

Rumsfeld said it is also possible that the number of U.S. troops in Iraq may increase again, before they drop back.

There are 127,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.

The Republican-controlled Senate on Thursday soundly rejected two Democratic attempts to urge withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, including an amendment to begin pulling out by the end of the year. GOP lawmakers accused the Democrats of wanting to abandon Iraq before the mission is complete, while Democrats said it is time for changes in Bush's failed Iraq strategy.