|A U.S. soldier takes down an older image to display the latest image purporting to show the body of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the al-Qaida-linked militant who led a bloody campaign of suicide bombings, kidnappings and hostage beheadings in Iraq, who was killed Wednesday in a U.S. airstrike. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)|
Although there certainly should be congratulations and commendations in order for everyone in Central Command and the Iraq forces, Zarqawi's killing is not likely to end the insurgency.
In fact, our most current analysis would suggest that Zarqawi's death may, in fact, put even more pressure on Al-Qaeda to undertake one or more major attacks in order to show their continued relevance.
Every time the U.S. and her allies are able to kill/capture terrorist(s), it should not be forgotten that it is a victory in only one battle in a much larger war on terrorism. Events like Zarqawi's death often prompt retaliation and will continue to do so unless/until the West can convince the jihadists that their campaign is doomed to ultimate failure.
While we recognize Mr. Zarqawi's death as a victory, we must also warn about the possibility of a looming terrorist event...probably as soon as the jihadists are able to carry it out.
U.S. still mindful of Iraq terror tactics
By KATHERINE SHRADER
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON - The death of al-Qaida in Iraq's leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, allowed U.S. counterterrorism officials an initial sigh of relief at what they hailed as a significant development, but they quickly cautioned against expecting it to end terror operations or violence in Iraq.
U.S. Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, told reporters there the development would not end the insurgency and an official in Washington, who requested anonymity while details of al-Zarqawi's death were still unfolding, said it should not cause anyone to have unrealistic expectations.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, in Brussels for a meeting of NATO defense ministers, discussed Zarqawi's death during a closed, mid-morning meeting of the North Atlantic Council.
But as the day wore on, and news of the U.S. military's most dramatic victory in Iraq in recent months dominated casual conversations in the NATO building, Rumsfeld stayed publicly mum and out of reach of the media.
The impact of al-Zarqawi's death is nonetheless symbolic: The U.S. has not seen the elimination of such an iconic figure since former President Saddam Hussein was found in an underground bunker in late 2003.
"It's great, good news. ... This is a significant hit," said Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware.
Asked on NBC's "Today" show if this will lower the level of violence there, he replied, "I pray it will be, and I doubt it will be. There's this insurgency...and there's a flat-out sectarian war going on."
"But as I said to the president the last time I got back from Iraq, if every jihadist is eliminated from Iraq, there's still a war in Iraq," said Biden, senior Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee.
Asked if Rumsfeld should be given credit for Zarqawi's death, Biden, who several times has called for the defense secretary's resignation, noted that he has frequently disagreed with his war-fighting strategy, but said, "Sure...I don't want anybody to take away from this event. This is a very, very good thing that happened."
Said Sen. John Cornyn,(R-Texas): "The Iraqi people stood up against this threat to their nation, and in partnership with the U.S. military, ended Zarqawi's attempt to stop the march of freedom and democracy in Iraq. Al-Zarqawi has made his last video."
Al-Zarqawi was considered the most dangerous terror plotter and foreign fighter in Iraq, coordinating a loose coalition of militants numbering at least in the hundreds. Osama bin Laden called him the "emir," or prince, of al-Qaida in Iraq.
The U.S. government was offering up to $25 million for information leading to al-Zarqawi's killing or capture, putting him on par with Hussein, bin Laden and his top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri.
During a speech in April, Gen. Michael Hayden, the newly appointed CIA director who was then serving as the No. 2 U.S. intelligence official, said the war in Iraq motivates jihadists, but their failure there would weaken the movement globally.
"The loss of key leaders like bin Laden, Zawahri and Zarqawi - especially if they were lost in rapid succession - could cause the jihadist movement to fracture even more into smaller groups, and would probably lead to strains and disagreements," Hayden said.
Al-Qaida in Iraq has taken responsibility for numerous mortar attacks, suicide bombings, beheadings and other violence against U.S. and Iraqi targets. Scores, including many ordinary Iraqis, have died.
Yet even into 2004, al-Zarqawi was considered a shadowy figure whose followers were known simply as "the Zarqawi network." He operated under the names of various jihadist groups, and began emulating bin Laden with recordings fraught with anti-Western rhetoric and calls to arms.
U.S. intelligence veterans have said he craved attention and saw an expanded role for himself in the al-Qaida organization.
But the U.S. government has misunderstood him at times.
The Bush administration cited al-Zarqawi's presence in Iraq before the April
2003 collapse of Saddam's government among its evidence of contacts between al-Qaida and the former regime - and part of its justification for the Iraq war.
While al-Zarqawi is believed to have been in Iraq, he was not operating as part of al-Qaida then. The July 2004 report from the Sept. 11 Commission found no evidence of a collaborative relationship between Saddam and bin Laden's terror organization before the invasion.
But by October 2004, al-Zarqawi pledged his allegiance to bin Laden.
Al-Zarqawi was also known for a time as the "one-legged terrorist," because U.S. authorities believed was fitted for an artificial leg in Baghdad in 2002. The assessment was later revised.
Over time, a more vivid picture of al-Zarqawi emerged.
Born in Jordan in 1966, al-Zarqawi developed ties to mujahedeen, or holy warriors, while fighting alongside them during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s.
Intelligence officials believe al-Zarqawi has cells or links to Muslim extremists worldwide, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Turkey, Spain, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Pakistan and Kuwait.
In the United States, FBI and other government officials did not believe al-Zarqawi had operatives under his command, but they had said it's likely that he had ties to some U.S.-based militants or sympathizers from his years of work in the extremist community.
U.S. officials have said bin Laden contacted al-Zarqawi last year to enlist him in attacks outside Iraq. Al-Zarqawi's group claimed responsibility for deadly bombings at three hotels in Jordan in November, including a wedding, which drew fierce condemnation.
At a rally, hundreds of angry Jordanians shouted "Burn in hell, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi!" after the terrorist's group claimed responsibility for the blasts.
Bush hails killing of al-Qaida leader in Iraq
By DEB REICHMANN
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON- President Bush on Thursday hailed the killing of a leading al-Qaida terrorist by military forces in Iraq, saying that Americans "can be justly proud" of U.S. fighting men and women.
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's death "s a severe blow to al-Qaida and it is a significant victory in the war on terror," Bush said in a statement at the White House.
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"We have tough days ahead of us in Iraq that will require the continuing patience of the American people," he said.