Al Qaeda in Iraq 'in Disarray,' U.S. General Says
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 13, 2006 Al Qaeda's influence in Iraq is unraveling, a senior U.S. general based in Baghdad told reporters today during a satellite news conference at the Pentagon.
"Al Qaeda is increasingly in disarray and we have pursued, captured and killed a large number of them," Army Lt. Gen. John R. Vines, commanding general of Multinational Corps Iraq and the 18th Airborne Corps, said.
That news, Vines said, accompanies escalating participation of capable Iraqi security forces in the fight against both foreign jihadists and home-grown terrorists.
"Iraqis are increasingly in the lead," Vines said. "The capacity of the Iraqi security forces is exponentially greater" than a year ago.
Much terrorist influence was removed from Iraq last year, Vines said, as the result of several U.S. military offensives targeted against insurgents operating in Anbar province and along the Iraq-Syrian border.
The Anbar area was a hotbed of terrorist and criminal activity, other U.S. military officials have said, with smugglers assisting foreign terrorists in crossing the Syrian border into Iraq, and on into the Euphrates River Valley or Baghdad.
Terrorists also intimidated Sunni Arabs and other groups living in Anbar province in efforts to keep them from participating in the political process of the new Iraq, Vines said.
Vines said foreign fighters now comprise a small portion of terrorist activity in Iraq, with the majority being disaffected Iraqis who'd been followers of deposed dictator Saddam Hussein. Other terrorists simply don't want U.S. or other foreign troops in Iraq, the general said.
Asked by a reporter about the whereabouts of enemy forces engaged during last year's fighting in Anbar province, Vines responded: "Many of them are dead." The general also said some Iraqis who are tired of violence and other terrorist interference in their lives have begun to attack al Qaeda operatives.
Citing recent intelligence reports, Vines reiterated, "There are a fair number of indicators that tell us, currently, al Qaeda in Iraq is in disarray."
"Does it have the capability to regenerate? Unfortunately, it could," he said. "But we must keep the pressure on."
Vines soon will return stateside after nearly a year's tour of duty in Iraq. His successor is Army Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, who will lead the U.S. Army's 5th Corps in Iraq.
In 2004-05, Chiarelli, then a major general, commanded the 1st Cavalry Division in Iraq.