April 19, 2010 — The U.S. military may have delivered the biggest blow in the war against Al-Qaeda in Iraq Monday with the killing of two of the Islamist militant group’s top commanders.
In route to White House Monday I received an e-mail saying Vice President Joe Biden would open the daily briefing with an announcement.
Biden told a packed briefing room in the West Wing, “Iraqi security forces with the support of U.S. forces killed the two most senior leaders of al Qaeda Iraq during a series of joint security operations near Tikrit, Abu Ayyub al-Masri and Abu Umar al-Baghdadi. The former leaders of AQI are the ones who plotted, planned, and executed terrorist attacks against the Iraqis in recent past, as well as against Americans.”
This announcement comes in the wake of an Iraqi panel investigating looking into the recent claims of fraud in last month’s parliamentary elections. A manual recount has been ordered in all votes cast in Baghdad.
But this along with the fact that elections have taken place and the Iraqi people have taken the lead is good news.
The Obama administration is planning to pull combat troops from Iraq by August, and the plan is still in place Biden confirmed in his remarks. “We remain committed to end our combat mission in Iraq this summer, by the end of August 2010, and in accordance with the U.S.-Iraqi security agreement that was signed a couple of years ago to remove all U.S. forces from Iraq by the end of 2011.”
Today’s announcement was characterized by the White House as “potentially devastating blows to al Qaeda Iraq.” The vice president gave credit to the work of the Iraqi security forces. “This action demonstrates the improved security strength and capacity of Iraqi security forces.”
“The Iraqis led this operation, and it was based on intelligence the Iraqi security forces themselves developed following their capture of a senior AQI leader last month,” Biden said.
General Raymond Odiemo, commander of the U.S. forces in Iraq told reporters, “The death of these terrorists is potentially the most significant blow to al-Qaeda in Iraq since the beginning of the insurgency.”