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Pentagon: Iraqi Forces Key to Fighting Insurgency

A U.S. Defense Department spokesman says coalition forces have had significant success fighting the continuing insurgency in Iraq, in part due to increased activity by the country's new armed forces.

Pentagon spokesman Lawrence DiRita says the coalition is having success against the insurgency for several reasons. He says a large number of insurgents have been captured or killed, more ordinary Iraqis are turning away from the insurgency because of the success of the political process and the insurgency's increasing attacks on Iraqis who are working to rebuild the country, and he says the coalition is learning more about the insurgents, in part thanks to Iraq's new security forces.

"The coalition's intelligence is getting better," he said. "And one of the reasons it's getting better is because there are more and more Iraqi security forces directly involved in counter-insurgency activities."

Mr. DiRita told reporters at the Pentagon Iraqi forces are more often taking the lead in intelligence gathering, and in offensive operations against the insurgents. He says that is one reason there were fewer U.S. casualties in February than in any month since last July. And he says the improved intelligence has enabled the coalition to more-precisely target their efforts to capture or kill key insurgents.

"There has been a lot of effective targeting of bomb makers," he added. "There has been a lot of apprehension of bomb makers. There has been a lot of apprehension of bomb laboratories. They've rolled up bomb-making equipment and inventory. They're having more success in the percentage of bombs that they capture before they go off. And the ones that are going off, to some extent, are less sophisticated than they once were, but in some cases more powerful."

That was evident in Monday's huge car bomb attack on Iraqi police recruits in Hilla that killed more than 125 people. Mr. DiRita said it is very difficult to defend against that type of attack involving a large bomb, a suicide bomber and a large crowd in the center of a big city.