September 6, 2008

Al Qaeda remains a dangerous force in Iraq despite a general decline in violence and U.S. troops must continue to confront the militant group, the outgoing top U.S. general in the country said.

General David Petraeus told al Arabiya television he believed recent success in reducing violence had restored the United States’ image with Iraqis. Troops initially greeted as liberators but later viewed as occupiers were now again accepted as friends. In the interview recorded on Monday and scheduled for broadcast later on Friday, Petraeus was asked whether al Qaeda had been defeated in Iraq.

“You will not find any military leader who will say this … all we can say is al Qaeda is still dangerous,” he said.

Petraeus’ comments were translated into English from an Arabic transcript of the interview sent to Reuters.

“It is certain more of these crimes will be committed, and we must continue working to confront these attacks,” he said.

Petraeus and his former deputy and designated successor Lieutenant-General Raymond Odierno are together credited with implementing a military strategy that helped reduce violence in Iraq, which slid towards sectarian civil war after the bombing of a revered mosque in early 2006.

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