Irak — Mullen Lauds Iraqi Forces for Efforts Against al-Qaida

PITTSBURGH, Pa., April 19, 2010 — The chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff echoed Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden’s praise today of Iraqi and U.S. secu­ri­ty forces for suc­cess­ful­ly killing the two top lead­ers of al-Qai­da in Iraq ear­ly yes­ter­day.
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen not­ed the oper­a­tions that led to Abu Ayoub al-Mas­ri and Abu Omar al-Bahgdadi’s deaths as exam­ples of the progress Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces have made since tak­ing the lead in secu­ri­ty efforts from U.S. forces a year ago.

“I want to give a great deal of cred­it to the Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces and Iraqi lead­er­ship,” Mullen told reporters at a news con­fer­ence here. “We’ve been work­ing in sup­port of [Iraqi forces] for a sig­nif­i­cant peri­od of time.

“[Iraqi forces] took the lead, and their lead­er­ship in this par­tic­u­lar oper­a­tion has been sig­nif­i­cant,” he added.

The al-Qai­da in Iraq ter­ror group, Mullen said, has been focused on bring­ing back the sec­tar­i­an vio­lence that over­whelmed the coun­try for much of 2006 and 2007. A string of sui­cide bomb­ings in Bagh­dad and Mosul since August have failed to do so, he added.

“The goal of [those bomb­ings] was to gen­er­ate sec­tar­i­an vio­lence, not just the imme­di­ate vio­lence,” the admi­ral said. “[Al-Qai­da] lead­er­ship has been very focused on try­ing to reignite the sec­tar­i­an vio­lence Iraq was fraught with.”

Although al-Qai­da suf­fered a poten­tial­ly dev­as­tat­ing blow, U.S. forces don’t count out the extrem­ist group and its capa­bil­i­ties. Iraqi forces, with U.S. assis­tance, will con­tin­ue to focus efforts to root out mem­bers who con­tin­ue to threat­en the country’s secu­ri­ty.

“Al-Qai­da in Iraq has been great­ly dimin­ished for a sig­nif­i­cant peri­od of time,” Mullen said. Their lead­er­ship has been killed and it’s very, very sig­nif­i­cant in terms … of its loss of sus­tain­abil­i­ty. [But] this, by no means, elim­i­nates al-Qai­da in Iraq.”

Just more than 100,000 U.S. troops are cur­rent­ly deployed to Iraq. By Aug. 31, that foot­print will be about 50,000. By the end of 2011, all U.S. forces are sched­uled to be com­plete­ly out of the coun­try.

Mullen was at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Pitts­burgh here today to speak with vet­er­ans and com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers as part of his “con­ver­sa­tions with the coun­try” ini­tia­tive to get bet­ter care and ser­vices for vet­er­ans.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)