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Al-Qaida Leader Claims US Failing to Subdue Militants in Iraq


Al-Qaida's second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Monday said the United States was failing in its efforts to subdue militants in Iraq. And in a tape released on the internet, Osama bin Laden's deputy told an unseen interviewer Britain's decision to hand over security responsibility for Basra province to Iraqi authorities is actually a sign that British forces are "fleeing." But a key U.S. defense official says al-Qaida's ideology carries the seeds of its own destruction among local residents of Iraq. VOA's Ravi Khanna looks at some the lessons the U.S. military says it learned in what was a violent place.

Coalition efforts to combat al-Qaida in Iraq's Anbar province led to major battles in Fallujah and Ramadi.

But later, local Sunni residents later turned against al-Qaida insurgents. And by the middle of 2007, the commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps said local tribesmen in Sunni provinces were joining Iraqi government forces in record numbers.

A senior U.S. defense official says the lessons learned in the local struggle can help fight the terrorist network worldwide.

The U.S. official says al-Qaida has spread its ideology globally through its cult of violence and simplicity of message.

But Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Michael Doran says one element of the network's ideology carries the seeds of its own destruction. "Al-Qaida makes it legitimate for a Muslim individual to designate other Muslims as apostates and to kill them on the basis of that designation. And this is an ideology has been spread globally. And that is what allows them to engage in such indiscriminate use of violence."

The deputy assistant secretary of defense says al-Qaida's practice of attacking Sunni Muslims is hurting the insurgent troupe's image in Iraq. "This puts al-Qaida in a very difficult position because ideally, they would like ideologically to present themselves as the representatives of the Iraqis as well as of the Islamic tradition."

U.S. success, he says, does not mean that al-Qaida in Iraq is less dangerous. But, he says, the Anbar experience has shown the way to combat ideological support for terrorism. "When people are put face to face with the choice of this ideology and what it really means and the alternative, if given the capability to counter it, they will choose the alternative. But for us to do it effectively that means we will have to really understand the specific local conditions in which people are living, what the choice is that they feel that they are facing and to craft policies that are responsive to those conditions."

Doran says the struggle against al-Qaida in Iraq will be won acre by acre [hectare by hectare] as is evident from the success of an ongoing experiment in Anbar province. The overall fight against al-Qaida, he says, cannot be won by the military means only but also by working together with Muslim allies.