A senior US military chief has admitted "good, honest" Iraqis are fighting American forces.

Major General Joseph Taluto said he could understand why some ordinary people would take up arms against the US military because "they're offended by our presence".

In an interview with Gulf News, he said: "If a good, honest person feels having all these Humvees driving on the road, having us moving people out of the way, having us patrol the streets, having car bombs going off, you can understand how they could [want to fight us]."

General Taluto, head of the US 42nd Infantry Division which covers key trouble spots, including Baquba and Samarra, also said some Iraqis not involved in fighting did support insurgents who avoided hurting civilians.

He said: "There is a sense of a good resistance, or an accepted resistance. They say 'okay, if you shoot a coalition soldier, that's okay, it's not a bad thing but you shouldn't kill other Iraqis.'"

However General Taluto insisted the US and other foreign forces would not be driven out of Iraq by violence. "If the goal is to have the coalition leave, attacking them isn't the way," he said. "The way to make it happen is to enter the political process cooperate and the coalition will be less aggressive and less visible and eventually it'll go away."

His comments come in stark contrast to the assertions of other top US figures, who persist in claiming all insurgents are either Baathists or Al Qaida terrorists.

General Taluto also admitted he did not know how many insurgents there were. "I stay away from numbers how can I quantify this? We can make estimates by doing some kind of guesswork," he said.

"I think there is a small core of foreign fighters. I don't know how big that is but there is some kind of capability here, and it's being replenished.

"Then there is a group of former regime personnel they're the facilitators. They make all the communications, move the money, they enable things to happen. Their goal isn't the same as the foreign fighters but they're using them to do what they want to do.

"Then we have the foot soldiers. Some are doing it for the money. Some are doing it because they're offended by our presence and believe we are a threat to their way of life. There are various levels."

He added: "Who knows how big these networks are, or how widespread? I know it's substantial enough to be a threat to the government and it will be for some time."

General Taluto said "99.9 per cent" of those captured fighting the US were Iraqis, but was also adamant most people in Iraq wanted a free, democratic and independent country.

He predicted attacks would continue to surge in intensity, as key milestones were reached, including the upcoming constitutional referendum.