Militant’s death good news but not victory
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the al-Qaida leader in Iraq, has been killed in a U.S. air raid north of Baghdad.
THE killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the face of insurgency in Iraq, was the most positive development on the battlefield in months. President Bush responded in measured terms, aware that bad news may be hours or days away. It is not likely to significantly reduce the insurrection or the growing opposition to the war.
Zarqawi was the al-Qaida leader in Iraq who planned the vicious beheadings, suicide attacks and car bombings against Iraqis, American troops and other foreigners. He rallied Sunnis to launch the attacks, but the insurgency is hardly organized. At least 60 terrorist groups have claimed responsibility for the attacks, but they are decentralized.
"Zarqawi is dead, but the difficult and necessary mission in Iraq continues," Bush said. "We can expect the terrorists and insurgents to carry on without him. We can expect the sectarian violence to continue."
Of greater importance in ending the insurgency will be the depth of participation by Sunnis in the new Iraqi government. Equally crucial will be the ability of that government to combat insurgents and provide security to the country. Americans are as impatient as Iraqis regarding the transfer of power.
The latest Associated Press-Ipsos poll shows that 59 percent of Americans believe the United States made a mistake in going to war, a large jump from the 34 percent in December 2004.
Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki recently predicted that Iraqi forces will be able to control their country within 18 months, despite delays in approving new ministers of defense, interior and national security.
However, Bush did not endorse the statement, saying only that U.S. troops would come home "as soon as possible." He said that would occur when Iraq becomes "a country that can sustain itself, govern itself and defend itself. That's the definition of victory, and we're making progress toward that goal."
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