BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- America's top military commander in Iraq said Thursday violence is down significantly across the country -- 60 percent in the last six months -- but that he's not ready to celebrate.
Gen. David Petraeus told reporters at Baghdad's Camp Victory that the picture has improved in a number of areas, with progress to report against al Qaeda in Iraq, in thwarting militant attacks and through cooperation with local militias.
He said troops have put the militants on the run, aggressively "pursuing" them in what used to be their strongholds.
"There's nobody in uniform who's doing victory dances in the end zone," Petraeus said. "We see this as requiring a continued amount of tough work" in the fight against al Qaeda in Iraq.
Petraeus said current violence levels in Iraq compare favorably to those from the spring and summer of 2005. Even in noting the progress, the general said this has still been the deadliest year for U.S. troops since the start of the war.
In addition to a "surge" in U.S. forces and more aggressive operations against militias and al Qaeda forces, Petraeus credited a six-month cease-fire initiated by cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi army with helping curb violence.
Asked if he felt the overall war had turned a corner, Petraeus said that progress in Iraq isn't like turning on a light switch.
"Nobody says anything about turning corners, seeing lights at the ends of tunnels," Petraeus said. "When you've been doing this as long as some of us have, you just keep your head down and you keep moving."
His remarks come during Defense Secretary Robert Gates' visit to Iraq. Gates detailed the same strides mentioned by Petraeus and said that security, stability and democracy in Iraq are "within reach."
CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report.
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