By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service
Oct. 15, 2008 - Coalition forces killed the second-ranking commander of al-Qaida in Iraq in a raid earlier this month, senior U.S. officials confirmed today. Abu Qaswarah was killed in an Oct. 5 raid in the northern Iraq city of Mosul, Navy Rear Adm. Patrick Driscoll, spokesman for Multinational Force Iraq, said in a Baghdad news conference.
Four other insurgents also were killed in the attack on a building serving as an al-Qaida command and control center, Driscoll said. Qaswarah' death "will significantly degrade" the terrorist group's operations in Mosul and northern Iraq, the admiral said.
Qaswarah led al-Qaida in Iraq operations in northern Iraq, and he had ties to senior al-Qaida leaders in Pakistan and Afghanistan, Driscoll said.
Al-Qaida's influence in the country has weakened in the past year, the admiral said. In the past quarter, violent attacks in Iraq have dropped by more than 77 percent over the previous quarter, he said. In Baghdad, violent attacks have dropped 90 percent.
"If you look at the numbers, security continues to improve. It's showing a degree of durability in terms of lasting," Driscoll said.
Driscoll credited the surge efforts, the increased numbers of Iraqis rejecting the extremists, and especially the much-improved capabilities of the Iraqi security forces for the drop in violence. The improved security has happened even as five U.S. brigade combat teams left Iraq and another 8,000 U.S. troops are slated to leave by the end of January 2009.
"This is a lot of combat power coming off the battlefield, but we're seeing increased levels of security at the same time," Driscoll said. "It's because Iraqi security forces have grown by over 150,000 over this period, and they are demonstrating increased professionalism, increased capacity to support themselves and increased sophistication in how they conduct themselves."
Driscoll warned, though, that the fight is far from over.
"Is the job done yet? No, it's not done yet," Driscoll said. "That's why it's still important that we focus on al-Qaida and continue to go after these networks and take them apart.
"It's going to continue to be a fight here in Iraq until al-Qaida's driven out," Driscoll said.