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The Feb. 10 letter was sent to the “soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and civilians” of the MNF-I.

In his first meeting with reporters, Gen. Petraeus also said progress is being made at stopping deadly improvised explosive devices.

“There have been successful operations to both locate car bomb factories and destroy them,” he told reporters yesterday in Baghdad.

Also, troops recently found a cache of 140 “explosively formed penetrators” deadly armor-piercing bombs during sweeps in Baghdad, along with nearly 100 caches of bombs and components in the area during the past two weeks.

Some terrorist cells also have been broken up and terrorists detained, he said.

Gen. Petraeus is optimistic the war against the insurgency eventually will be won and he also thinks Iraqis can “put the good of Iraq ahead of personal agendas and sectarian interests.”

* Bill Gertz covers the Pentagon. He can be reached at 202/636-3274 or at bgertz@washingtontimes.com