A senior U.S. general in Iraq says the al-Qaida terrorist network in the country is in "disarray," and that if the new government includes Sunni groups that have supported the insurgency it will go a long way toward reducing the violence that has plagued the country in recent years. The number two coalition commander in Iraq, Lieutenant General John Vines, spoke to reporters at the Pentagon via satellite Friday, just a few days before ending his year-long assignment.
General Vines says attacks will continue in Iraq, perpetrated by groups that want to impose their views on the Iraqi people. But these days, he says, most of the violence does not come from al-Qaida.
"There are a fair number of indicators that tell us currently al-Qaida in Iraq is in disarray," he said.
General Vines says most of the recent wave of violence has been carried out by Iraqis.
"The indicators are that we see are not related to al-Qaida in Iraq. They are in some cases related to other terrorist groups. In some cases they're related to former regime elements and Saddamists. In some cases they're related to people who conduct violent acts for pay," he added.
The second-ranking U.S. commander in Iraq says that makes it crucial for Iraqi politicians to negotiate a future government that includes Sunni groups. If that happens, he says many violent groups are more likely to lay down their arms and become part of the political process, a move he says would significantly reduce the insurgency.
"We have indicators that many who we believe may have been involved in violence are seeing that they can and must reject that violence so they can be a full participant in government," he explained. "I believe it would have a very significant impact if they laid down arms and participated in a democratic process, as opposed to violence."
In the past, U.S. commanders and officials have said that while most of the insurgent attacks in Iraq are carried out by Iraqi groups, the largest ones are mostly carried out by al-Qaida.
General Vines says more and more ordinary Iraqis are rejecting violence, particularly in the wake of the recent national election. But he warned that some violence will likely continue, and that future stability depends on the new government's success in making the country's various groups feel that their needs are being addressed.