The top U.S. military officer says the killing on Sunday of the man described as the number two al-Qaida leader in Iraq will have an impact on the organization, but that like the many other insurgent leaders killed or captured, the organization will replace him. Speaking just two days before his retirement, General Richard Myers predicted that the U.S.-led coalition will defeat the insurgents in Iraq, but he also said it will take more than just a military effort to defeat extremism in Iraq and around the world.
General Myers says the killing of the man known as Abu Azzam will have some impact on al-Qaida in Iraq, but that he will be replaced and the struggle will go on.
"I think we considered him the number two al-Qaida operative in Iraq, next to Zarqawi," he said. "Clearly, Zarqawi knows that he is under a lot of pressure. And now the number two person, the person that is his primary facilitator, the one that organizes things operationally, certainly in Baghdad, and has a lot of responsibility for al-Qaida finances in Iraq, he is no longer on the scene. So, they're going to have to go to the bench [find a substitute] and find somebody that's probably less knowledgeable, less qualified. It will have some impact, but over time they will replace people."
General Myers, who has been the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the last four years, said that is why what he sees as the longer term fight against extremism is so important. He said the military has an important role, but a broader effort is needed to provide alternatives for young people who might otherwise follow the extremists.
"I think we will be victorious, and will help with victory in Iraq," he said. "But Iraq is going to be, perhaps, a longer term issue. It's an insurgency that has to be dealt with probably over a longer period of time in which the political and economic instruments of power are going to play a major role."
General Myers said the United States will stay with the global war on terrorism in military, economic and political terms because, he said, the stakes are as high as they were in World War II - nothing less than the survival of the American way of life.