The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said yesterday that U.S. and allied forces in Iraq are winning the war against former Saddam Hussein loyalists, foreign terrorists and criminals.
"I'm going to say this: I think we are winning," Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers said during a briefing at the Pentagon. "I think we're definitely winning. I think we've been winning for some time."
Although terrorist car bombings have increased, the four-star general said, the number of attacks "is a poor measure of whether you're winning or losing."
About half of the nearly 60 attacks logged per day do not result in damage or casualties, Gen. Myers said.
Recent elections are producing a "balanced government" that will lead to a constitutional system, he said.
"Almost any indicator you look at, the trends are up," Gen. Myers said. "So we're definitely winning."
However, he said challenges lie ahead.
For example, Gen. Myers said, terrorists are using "more vehicle-borne explosive devices." Some of the deadly car bombs this month have been used in simultaneous attacks.
Despite the increase in attacks, he said, the insurgents' "capacity stays about the same, and where they are right now is where they were almost a year ago."
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who joined Gen. Myers at the briefing, said the insurgents are "a relatively small number of people" who are armed and funded and are trying to prevent democratic reform from moving ahead.
Mr. Rumsfeld said the insurgents will have a harder time as democracy takes hold and the economy progresses.
Asked whether the steady number of attacks over the past year is a sign of failure, the defense secretary said U.S. and coalition forces will not be what defeats the insurgency.
"The people that are going to defeat that insurgency are the Iraqis," Mr. Rumsfeld said, noting that a victory will be achieved through military, political and economic means.
Gen. Myers said intelligence on the insurgency is "getting better" but has not been good enough to lead Iraqi and U.S. forces to capture Abu Musab Zarqawi, the senior al Qaeda terrorist in Iraq.
Iraqis are coming forward to help identify some terrorists, such as those who took part in a recent attack on a Russian-made Mi-8 helicopter carrying U.S. contractors, he said.
Mr. Rumsfeld noted that Zarqawi's network shares people, money, communications and instructions with al Qaeda terrorists outside Iraq. The terrorists are getting support from Syria, Iran and other countries in the region, he said.
"And they're coming into Iraq," Mr. Rumsfeld said. "Zarqawi is, by all accounts, pretty well financed, and he has a number of young folks bent on jihad that he puts right into the fight and right into the suicide vehicles."