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Aussie brigadier sez Zarqawi degraded in Iraq
AL-QAEDA insurgents in Iraq have sustained significant losses and their ability to mount effective attacks is steadily diminishing, according to Australia's top soldier in the Middle East.

Brigadier Paul Symon said while Iraq was going through an "awkward period" during the transition to a new government, the US-led coalition remained confident the country would not descend into civil war.

Interviewed in Baghdad he said military operations against al-Qaeda and its affiliates were proving to be "very effective" with the organisation led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi now less agile and having to rely on much less-seasoned fighters.

"We are seeing an insurgency that is diminishing in effectiveness in its tactics and techniques. I think they have lost some of their better people," he said.

His comments came as Defence Minister Brendan Nelson visited Baghdad to meet Australian forces stationed there. He also held talks with his Iraqi counterpart Dr Sadoun Dulime, senior US commander in Iraq General George Casey and US envoy Zalmay Khalizad.

Dr Nelson, accompanied by Defence chief Angus Houston, flew in a US Blackhawk helicopter into the city's inter- national zone from Camp Victory, the big American base located near Baghdad's international airport.

After less than 24 hours in the city, Dr Nelson flew by C130 Hercules to Afghanistan where he spent three hours visiting the 200-strong Australian special forces group stationed in the country.

In central Baghdad Dr Nelson's party was met by ambassador Howard Brown and toured the new Australian Embassy, as well as the headquarters of the security detachment which provides protection for Australian officials.

Dr Nelson said the anecdotal evidence from Australian forces in Baghdad was that there had been some improvement in the security situation despite the surge in violence following the bombing of the golden mosque at Samarra last month.

Brig Symon told The Daily Telegraph the timetable for a phased withdrawal of coalition troops from Iraq would be directly linked to the emergence of a stable government in the country. Late 2007 was the "right aiming point" for a withdrawal of coalition forces.
Posted by:Dan Darling

#1   "awkward period" Talk about Auzzie Undersatement,sheeesh.
Posted by: raptor   2006-03-09 10:44