WASHINGTON -- The coalition and Iraqi security forces are facing a "thinking enemy," and that enemy has changed its tactics in response to what the coalition has done, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here today.
There are between 50 and 60 insurgent attacks each day in Iraq, Gen. Peter Pace said during a Pentagon press conference with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. That number has remained fairly constant for the past few months, Pentagon officials said.
But the types of attacks and the targets of the attacks have shifted. Insurgents are aiming at softer targets and the Iraqi police. When they do target coalition forces, they are using a larger proportion of suicide car bombs, Pace said.
Still, there's been a tremendous amount of progress, he said. He pointed out that from the Iraqi standpoint, what the U.S. and Iraqi armed forces can do is to provide a level of security where discussions among various tribes, political leaders and even "those who have different views of the way ahead for the country" can occur peacefully.
The security situation is important, but Pace warned against chasing "the spikes and dips" in the security situation. "If you draw a straight line through the middle of that, it's fairly constant," he said. "That's not good or bad, it's fact. But inside that fairly constant line there's plenty of opportunity for the Iraqi people to stand up and vote their own futures."
On the political side, Rumsfeld said, the Iraqis are moving forward smartly. He said it is tough work to build a democracy. The Iraqis have established a government in "a couple of weeks," he said.
And all sides are still speaking to each other. He said it would be natural for the Shiia -- who experienced 30 years of repression under Saddam Hussein -- to take control and impose their own repressive regime.
"Quite the contrary," Rumsfeld said. "The Shiia, from the top leadership down, have been saying, 'Look, we want to have one country; let's reach out to the Sunnis, let's include them, let's find a way ... to get them involved in the drafting of the constitution. (This is) exactly the right instinct."
The Sunnis, who now realize they made a mistake in boycotting the Jan. 30th elections, are speaking to the Shiia and the Kurds, Rumsfeld said. In return, "the Shiia are reaching out to them, and the Kurds are reaching out to them and trying to include them," he said.
There will continue to be give and take among the groups in Iraq. The leaders will continue to jockey for position. They will follow the guidelines of the Transitional Administrative Law to write a constitution that will bind together a people that have often been at each other's throats, Rumsfeld said.
In the past, dictators held the Iraqi people together via fear and repression. Now they are looking for "a piece of paper" -- a constitution -- to do so.
"Instead of a vicious dictatorship, instead of repression, instead of a police state, instead of mass graves filled with people -- bodies, tens of thousands of bodies -- there's going to be a piece of paper that those people are going to have to put their faith in," he said. "That is an enormous thing. And they're going to be debating that and tugging on it and 'to-ing and fro-ing,' and they're going to, in my view, come up with one."