US General Says al-Qaida Crippled in Northwestern Iraq

A senior U.S. military officer said Friday that coalition forces in northwestern Iraq have disrupted "about 80 percent" of the al-Qaida terrorist network's capabilities in the region. The general spoke in the wake of a major offensive to remove insurgents from the town of Tal Afar.

Brigadier General Kevin Bergner, deputy commander of coalition forces in northwestern Iraq, says coalition military activities, the rise of the new Iraqi security forces and efforts by the national and local governments have combined to drastically change the situation in the region.

Speaking on a video link from Mosul, General Bergner could not provide specific figures to back up his claim of an 80 percent reduction in insurgent capability, but did say the number of attacks is sharply down.

"We have seen fewer complex attacks against Iraqi security forces and the Iraqi people," he said. "We've also seen an overall reduction since January in the number of attacks against both our forces and the Iraqi people. And as I mentioned earlier, we've seen less indirect fire. We've actually had days in Mosul now where we've had zero indirect fire, zero small-arms fire and zero VBIEDs. That was a feature of the security environment back in the winter that would have been almost unheard of."

'VBIED' is the military term for car bomb. General Bergner said the number of insurgent attacks of all kinds in Nineweh Province has gone down from an average of more than 100 per week in January to about 50 now, although he said some weeks the number is higher. He says much of the reduction can be attributed to help from local residents. He says, as commanders from other parts of Iraq have reported, that local people are providing more information about insurgent activities to the new Iraqi forces and the coalition.

General Bergner says the major offensive in the town of Tal Afar has been replaced with an effort to rebuild the town, and life is returning to normal. He says Iraqi military and police forces have taken responsibility for security in Tal Afar, and will maintain a strong force there as long as needed to ensure that the insurgents do not return.