Myers: Insurgency same as year ago
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The insurgency in Iraq is "about where it was a year ago," in terms of attacks, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said but he said American and Iraqi troops are gaining ground in the two-year-old conflict.
Gen. Richard Myers told reporters Tuesday that the number of insurgent attacks has run between 50 and 60 a day in the past week, up from a recent average of about 40 a day.
"In terms of the number of incidents, it's right about where it was a year ago," he said. "And weeks will differ, and months will differ a little bit. But if you look at the scope of this, over time since May of 2003, that's the conclusion you draw."
However, he said half of those attacks are ineffective, and the level remains "nowhere near" the volume of attacks ahead of Iraq's January elections. In addition, he said, Iraqis are more willing to come forward with intelligence about the insurgents, and Iraq's security forces are taking on more responsibility.
"Almost any indicator you look at, the trends are up. So we're definitely winning," he said. "However, there will be a lot of challenges ahead. Like any insurgency, we become impatient. And in the end, the Iraqis must do this for themselves."
Myers' assessment of the insurgency raised eyebrows in the Pentagon briefing room, but Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said there are "a lot of moving parts" in play in Iraq.
"We're focusing a reasonable portion of our efforts at the present time not on counterinsurgency at all," he said. "We're focusing it on training Iraqi security forces in increasing amounts. So you can make a case that, gee, if the level's about the same, then the insurgency must be down because we're paying less attention to it and encouraging Iraqi security forces to pay greater attention."
Rumsfeld said political and economic progress in Iraq eventually will prevail over an insurgency he said is divided and has no plan other than "turning that country back to the Dark Ages."
"The United States and the coalition forces, in my personal view, will not be the thing that will defeat the insurgency," he said. "So therefore, winning or losing is not the issue for 'we', in my view, in the traditional, conventional context of using the word winning and losing in a war."
U.S. officials have been pressuring Iraqi leaders chosen in January's vote to finish putting a government together. The Iraqis face an August deadline to write a constitution and put it before the Iraqi people in a referendum.
Rumsfeld warned the Iraqis against removing "competent people" from Iraq's security forces for political reasons -- a reference to efforts by the majority Shiite parties to keep former members of ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's ruling Baath Party out of top government posts.
"If they want to reduce the level of the insurgency, having competent people and avoiding unnecessary turbulence is a high priority," he said.
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani met Tuesday with Prime Minister-designate Ibrahim al-Jaafari to discuss the process. The meeting lasted about 15 minutes, and al-Jaafari did not submit a draft Cabinet list, a Talabani spokesman told