By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
Dec. 14, 2007 - Beleaguered by surge-fortified Iraqi and coalition forces, al Qaeda and other extremists also are quickly losing any influence they may have had among the local populace, a senior U.S. military officer told reporters here today. Al Qaeda's murder of Iraqis who don't share their ideology has turned the population against them, Army Maj. Gen. Richard Sherlock, the Joint Chiefs' director of operational planning, said at a Pentagon news conference.
The terrorists may claim to be defenders of the Iraqi people, yet, "the result is that they're killing more innocent women and children and (other) Iraqis than they are coalition or (Iraqi) security forces," Sherlock said.
As a result, Iraqis living in Anbar province and other areas of the country increasingly are rejecting the terrorists' agenda and embracing the idea of working with the Iraqi government to defeat the insurgents, the general said.
Al Qaeda now is being pushed out of Baghdad and its environs into areas north of the capital, Sherlock said. "What they're finding is a population that is not hospitable to them any more," he said. "And that is causing them, again, to be thrown out of their game plan."
In desperation, the terrorists are seeking to commit spectacular suicide or roadside-bomb attacks to demonstrate their continued relevance, Sherlock observed. That tactic, however, is backfiring on them, he said.
"What they're finding is, in the long term, they're losing the support of the people, because they're killing more of them than they are anyone else," Sherlock said. "And that comes shining through."
Meanwhile, the insurgents are on the defensive, Sherlock observed, as coalition and Iraqi forces keep up the pressure on an enemy shorn of its former sanctuaries among the populace.
"The number of attacks, overall, has continued to go down in Iraq," the general reported. And, when the insurgents do detonate improvised explosive devices or launch suicide-bomb attacks, the Iraqi population usually suffers the most.
"It shows those (insurgent) groups actually hold the innocents whom they claim to support in disregard, because they are killing them," Sherlock said.
And, as al Qaeda, other terrorists and criminal groups in Iraq lose their sanctuaries, it becomes more difficult for them to plan and conduct operations as well as communicate, Sherlock said.
The only thing the terrorists in Iraq can do now "is to try to create some kind of spectacular attack," in an attempt to show they remain a force to be reckoned with, he said.