Al-Qaeda’s last stan…
Al-Qaeda’s last stand?

The war in Iraq is increasingly looking more like a showdown with Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda followers than a battle primarily against Saddam Hussein loyalists.

The shift is making the fight a focal point of the U.S. global war against Islamic terrorists and one that might dictate whether the U.S. wins or loses, said a senior official and an outside expert.

“If they fail in Iraq, Osama and his whole crew are finished,” said retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney, a military author and analyst.

Remember this when the left talks about the “insurgency” in Iraq. They try to make it sound like Iraqis themselves are rising up against the Coalition when in reality the vast majority are coming in from the outside.

The changing dynamic was highlighted this week when the U.S. military launched a major offensive in western Iraq, primarily against foreign jihadists who crossed the border with Syria to join the al Qaeda network in Iraq led by Abu Musab Zarqawi. In a troubling sign, U.S. officers said Zarqawi’s terrorists seemed well-trained and well-equipped.

They’re throwing everything they have into this, which lends credence to the thought that they see this as a make-or-break situation.

The U.S. offensive, code named Operation Matador, entered its third day yesterday in the dusty border towns west of Baghdad near Syria. The command said three Marines and more than 100 enemy fighters have been killed.

“In the Muslim world and extremist world, this fight for Iraq is their key battle,” said Gen. McInerney. “If they lose it, they lose the war. And so the imams are inciting young people, not particular well-educated, to head to Iraq. Most are going through Syria via Damascus.

“This is why Iraq is such a fundamental part of the global war on terrorism. When we finally defeat Muslim extremists, it will be the battle in Iraq that defeats them.”

The war’s changing nature is also illustrated by the list of the high-ranking enemy announced as captured by the new Baghdad government. Virtually all of those caught since December have been identified as lieutenants of the Jordanian-born Zarqawi, not operatives for Iraq’s former dictator Saddam Hussein.

It’s not all good news (the report talks about the new terror cells that Zarqawi has recruited), but it’s not nearly as dismal as some would have you believe. We’re making great strides in killing terrorists (while they are there rather than here), and the enemy is getting increasingly desperate.

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