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US 'Clearly Winning' in Iraq, says Top Military Officer - 2003-12-09

America's top military officer says U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq are "clearly" winning the war against loyalists of Saddam Hussein's ousted regime.

General Richard Myers, Chairman of the U.S. military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, says there is no doubt in his mind that coalition forces in Iraq are making headway every day in their battles with insurgents.

"I would say we are winning. I mean, clearly we're winning," he said.

Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon, General Myers said the vast majority of U.S. soldiers feel the same way. He cites the case of a wounded 21-year-old artilleryman he met. "He said, I felt like a rock star over there," said the general. "Everywhere I went the children and the adults wanted to take their pictures with me."

But General Myers concedes there will be challenges ahead and that victory will not come easy.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, appearing at the same news conference, says dangers remain in Iraq. He also appeared more cautious than General Myers when asked whether the overall security situation in the country was improving.

"I think it's too early to call it a trend line and we'll just have to see," he said. "We'll just have to go through the next month or two or three and see how effective the adjustment in tactics and techniques and procedures that the U.S. military forces are adopting, how effective they are."

General Myers said U.S. commanders in Iraq are getting more and more intelligence leading them to insurgent bombmakers who have been targeting coalition troops.

The general also said Iraqi militiamen are being brought together in a special unit to assist coalition forces in the fight against terrorists, including foreign fighters who have entered Iraq.

But he declined to give any details on the size of the unit or its operations.