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How we are beating al-Qaeda

The Sun, August 07, 2007

With the horrors of terrorist car bombers murdering innocents and grabbing headlines every day, that’s not surprising.

But it’s not true.

The war for Iraq can still be won — as long as we continue to persevere.
That is the opinion of Britain’s top general in Iraq, Lieutenant-General Graeme Lamb, who has just ended a one-year tour of duty.

He served as deputy to America’s top general in Iraq, General David Petraeus, who commanded the “surge” of attacks on terrorist cells.

When General Lamb arrived in Iraq the situation was appalling. US marines were the subject of 80 attacks a day in Al-Anbar province, where the Sunni and al-Qaeda uprising was fiercest.

Al-Qaeda seemed in control. The Americans reported that the province was virtually lost to the marines. Local tribal leaders had fled.

Not now. Al-Qaeda atrocities have revolted the population. Slicing people’s faces off with piano wire is one of their specialities.

War ... Iraq map

And they throw the severed heads of victims into the streets with the warning that no one should touch them.

Now, the courage of the marines has given people in Al-Anbar confidence that such horrors can be ended and the terrorists defeated.

The tribal leaders are back and asserting themselves against al-Qaeda. “We ARE defeating the al-Qaeda brand,” says General Lamb.

In Fallujah, which the marines liberated in 2004, the busineassociation had only a few members a year ago.

Now it has 350. Confidence is coming back.

Al-Qaeda is also on the run in Salah ad Din province. Similarly, in Diyala.

A year ago in Samarra, al-Qaeda blew up Shi’ite shrine the Golden Mosque in the hope of starting a total civil war. They have failed.

General Lamb is full of admiration for the American soldiers. US casualties have risen in the last few months.

This is because of General Petraeus’s “surge” of thousands of extra troops into areas of Baghdad they had not gone to before.

Despite these losses, American troop morale is high. They trust Petraeus.
So far the British and Americans have handed back eight of the 18 provinces to Iraqi control. Four more are due to be handed over next month.

And Kurdistan in the north is a great succestory.

But the political battles are difficult — both in Iraq and the US. Iraqi politicians have failed dismally to co-operate in creating a decent society.Their squabbles are unforgivable and could destroy Iraq’s future. In America the looming presidential election means that politicians are demanding the US quits Iraq.

Such surrender would be a disaster — it could lead to a genocide that would dwarf the horrors in Rwanda and Darfur.

Now is not the time to quit.

And that is why it is so crucial that Gordon Brown resists the temptation to cut and run just to separate himself from Tony Blair.

With consistent courage, especially by the Americans, and grown-up behaviour by Iraqi politicians, Iraq can still make it.

IT’S fashionable to say that the war in Iraq is lost.


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