Skip to comments.Commander: Al-Qaida still able to attack
Posted on 12/19/2007 2:52:58 PM PST by NormsRevenge
BAGHDAD - The top U.S. commander in northern Iraq warned Wednesday that al-Qaida in Iraq was still capable of staging spectacular attacks despite a 50 percent drop in bombings and other violence in his region.
Army Maj. Gen. Mark P. Hertling said that al-Qaida in Iraq was being pushed north by the increased numbers of U.S. troops that surged into Baghdad over the summer and fall, and from Anbar province by "awakening councils" the groups of Iraqi Sunni tribesmen that the U.S. military has backed to help fight al-Qaida in Iraq and its allies.
"Many of them have transited our province" of Diyala, which has seen some of the worst violence in Iraq, he said. "There are still some very bad things happening in that province but we are continuing to pursue al-Qaida so they don't find a safe haven anywhere."
He said al-Qaida extremists were still capable of carrying out attacks against infrastructure projects such as bridges.
"You know there are going to be continued spectacular attacks," he said when asked about the Monday bombing of a bridge across Mosul Dam.
The attack, carried out with a truck bomb, closed the bridge to vehicle traffic and may have been an attempt by insurgents to bring down the dam. It may also have been an effort by insurgents seeking shelter to create a temporary safe haven on one of its banks.
Built in the 1980s on the Tigris River near Mosul, the dam made headlines in June after a report by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said potential erosion of its foundation could cause it to buckle under the water pressure, drowning Mosul and parts of Baghdad, 360 kilometers (225 miles) to the south.
"We have some intelligence that says it was part of a bigger plot, there is some intelligence that they may have wanted to cut off side of that river to make safe havens," Hertling said. "There are some indications that they wanted to close that route because it is used by coalition forces."
Hertling added that "I personally think it is an additional indicator that these people who are trying to disrupt the people of Iraq will do anything to screw up the people of Iraq."
Violence in Iraq has abated in recent months and the U.S. military has said it has dropped by as much as 60 to 70 percent in some places. In Baghdad, only one bullet-riddled body was found washed up along the Tigris river Wednesday, while another man was killed by a roadside bomb.
The lull may have been due to the start of the Eid al-Adha holiday for Sunni Muslims in Iraq. Shiites who also celebrate the day are expected to mark Eid Friday.
Eid al-Adha is a holy celebration for Muslims, commemorating the prophet Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son for God. According to Muslim tradition, after Abraham expresses his willingness, God sends the prophet two sheep instead for slaughter.
"We will continue to face a tough fight as we tenaciously pursue al-Qaida. We will face upturns in violence as a result of al-Qaida fighting back but we will continue to keep pressure on terrorist networks and reduce the prospect of them being able to re-establish bases or safe havens," said U.S. military spokesman Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner.
Hertling said the four provinces under his command had seen a marked reduction of attacks by improvised explosive devices such as roadside bombs.
"We have seen a precipitous decline in IED operations," he said, adding that they had dropped by 50 percent from June, when there were 1,698 attacks, compared to 849 in November.
But such bombs still plague his region and Hertling's troops have been working hard for five days to restore a major four-lane highway in western Mosul that has been closed due to IED attacks on civilian and military traffic.
In that time, three miles of the road, known as Highway One, were cleared and repaired, the military said.
"Infrastructure such as Highway One are what enable major cities such as Mosul to thrive; al-Qaida has made every attempt to keep this unusable," said Maj. John Oliver Jr., operations officer for 3d Squadron, 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment.
Further to the north, Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq said Wednesday that their forces would defend civilians if they were caught up in any fighting between Turkish troops and Kurdish rebels from the outlawed PKK in the area.
On Tuesday, Turkey sent hundreds of troops across the border into the frigid mountains of northern Iraq, claiming it inflicted heavy losses on Turkish Kurd rebels in the small-scale incursion, which lasted about 15 hours, and from air strikes two days earlier.
The offensive puts more pressure on Washington to mediate between Iraq and Turkey. In a sign of increasing tension, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees reported that more than 1,800 people fled their homes in parts of Iraq's semiautonomous Kurdistan last weekend.
Iraqi officials have complained that Turkey's actions are a violation of Iraqi sovereignty, although they have also said they recognize the threat posed by the PKK, or Kurdistan People's Party.
A cow approaches a U.S. army soldier from Blackfoot Company, 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, as he lays concealed in thick grass during an ambush setup on the outskirts of Muqdadiyah, in the volatile Diyala province, about 90 kilometers (60 miles) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2007. The soldiers from Blackoot Company had set up an ambush targeting a group of suspected terrorists, but had to abandon their plans because their position was compromised by a group of cow herders. (AP Photo/Marko Drobnjakovic)
A US soldier in Kirkuk, Iraq. Democrats failed again this week in their efforts to influence Iraq war policy, showing themselves incapable of carrying out the mandate of voters who gave them a majority in Congress one year ago. (AFP/File/Marwan Ibrahim)
... or much of anything else beneficial to the nation.
IMHO, they will always be able to attack. I think they will be able to attack Europe, Asia, and the Americas even after we leave Iraq and Afghanistan. We just have to get it down to a level that enables the new Iraqi Government to be able to handle the situation.