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Top General Warns of 'TV' Attacks
Military.com | By Christian Lowe | March 05, 2008The former number two military official in Iraq said March 4 that al Qaeda in Iraq -- the local affiliate of the global jihad movement -- has been crippled by coalition military efforts over the last 13 months and is struggling for relevance.
With violence on the decline and tips from local citizens on the rise, al Qaeda in Iraq is running out of sanctuaries and recruits.
"Al Qaeda's capacity has been degraded significantly to operate inside Iraq," said Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, the recently-reassigned commander of Multi-National Corps-Iraq, at a March 4 press briefing at the Pentagon.
"They are struggling to maintain a coherent capacity," added Odierno, who is soon to become the Vice-Chief of Staff of the Army.
He went on to say that al Qaeda will likely try to keep its name in the news by executing occasional attacks, such as the Feb. 1 suicide bombing in which the organization detonated explosive belts on two mentally disabled women.
"What al Qaeda wants ... is to do an event where they can get on TV every once in a while," Odierno said. "That's what they're down to."
Al Qaeda will probably always maintain some kind of presence in Iraq, he added, though it will likely devolve into a "non-entity" with little security or political relevance.
A general some had regarded as a "shoot first, ask questions later" tactician, Odierno has proven himself a master of the subtleties of counterinsurgency during his 15-month tour as Gen. David Petraeus' Corps commander.
He is credited with taking the surge forces added in January 2007 and using them to wipe al Qaeda from Anbar province, and push them out of Baghdad and Diyala province to their final stand in northern Ninevah province and the city of Mosul.
In a recent article in the Weekly Standard magazine, authors Frederick and Kimberly Kagan -- both military historians and intellectual founders of the "surge" strategy -- compared Odierno to Gen. George S. Patton, who turned around a stalled European offensive in 1944 and largely delivered the knockout blow to the German army.
But Odierno is humble about his contribution to the Iraq success.
"No single person does any of this. It is a team effort," Odierno said.
Like Petraeus, his former boss, Odierno favors a slower drawdown of troops from Iraq; he advocates a pause this summer, after about five combat brigades withdrawn. The force, which constituted 20 combat brigades at the height of the surge, will be down to 18 "within the next week," he said.
"Now I want to see what will happen when we go to 15," he added. "What are the conditions on the ground? And then you go from there."
Odierno said that although his efforts have largely stabilized Iraq and put that country on the road to security, Iraq still teeters on a razor's edge - where one major terrorist attack could tip the security balance in a far more lethal direction.
"We look for ... some event that would happen that would accelerate this [sectarian] tension," Odierno explained. "What we don't want is that sectarian tension to turn back to violence."
His primary concern for long-term security is "intra-Shiia" violence and Iranian-backed extremist attacks on the fledgling Iraqi government.
"Leave no doubt about it, [Iran] is still supporting the insurgents," Odierno said. "This is, in my opinion, about keeping a weak government in Iraq. I think Iran benefits from it."
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