ARLINGTON, Va. — U.S. troop levels in Iraq will remain steady at about 135,000 troops for “the next several months,” according to the top U.S. military leader in Iraq.

Once the last of the units held over for Iraqi elections returns home at the end of March, “I don’t necessarily anticipate [troop levels] changing much for the next several months,” Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., commanding general of the Multi-National Force-Iraq, told Pentagon reporters Tuesday.

“We’re in a good position following the (January) elections, but we have a lot of work ahead to get to our final objective in Iraq,” Casey said.

“We’re actually further along than I thought we’d be at this point,” Casey said. “The level of violence, the level of attacks (against coalition forces), have dropped off significantly.”

In fact, he said, “last week [marked] the lowest level (of attacks) since April.”

However, Casey said he was “not ready to say” that the elections marked a “tipping point” that will spell a rapid end to the insurgency.

Despite progress in capturing many bombmakers and other foes of coalition forces and the new Iraqi government, “We are (still) dealing with an insurgency that has sufficient weapons, ammunition and people to maintain attacks (at the level of) 50 or 60 per day in the Sunni area,” Casey said. “We’ve seen that.”

Even though attacks against U.S. forces have dropped, attacks continue against Iraqis, in particular the fledgling Iraqi security forces, which are losing members to suicide bombers and other insurgent weapons almost daily.

The insurgents are “clearly going after Iraqi security forces more, that’s kind of a steady thing,” Casey said.

The election gave the Iraqi people a much-needed psychological boost, Casey said, leaving Iraqi civilians less vulnerable to the demoralizing effect of daily bloodshed.

“For every one attack, two and a half are ineffective,” Casey said, “So you get a lot of noise. Before the election, that noise really affected the people, because they had a perception of insecurity,” he said. “After the election, [it’s] not having the same effect.”

But stabilizing Iraq is an effort that could take many more years, Casey said, although he did not specifically say that U.S. troops would be required for the duration.

“Defeating insurgency takes time,” Casey said. “The average counterinsurgency in the 20th century took nine years.”

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