NPR logo Biden Praises 'Devastating Blow' To Al Qaida Iraq

Biden Praises 'Devastating Blow' To Al Qaida Iraq

Vice President Joe Biden. Susan Walsh/AP Photo hide caption

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Susan Walsh/AP Photo

Vice President Joe Biden visited the White House briefing room Monday to underscore the significance of what he said was an Iraqi-led military operation that led to the deaths of two senior leaders of al Qaida in Iraq, Abu Ayyub Al-Masri and Abu Omar al-Baghdad and to praise the Iraqis.

BIDEN: Their deaths are potentially devastating blows to al Qaeda Iraq. But equally important in my view is 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.

In short, the Iraqis have taken the lead in securing both Iraq and its citizens by taking out both of these individuals.

While Biden called the operation American-led, it was actually American airpower that provided the fatal blow.

With President Barack Obama having decided to draw down U.S. forces in Iraq as he surges them into Afghanistan, the administration wants to highlight Iraqi military successes in order to show that Iraqis are increasingly able to handle their own security affairs.

That's an important message to Iraqis and Americans alike in the wake of more frequent bomb attacks that raised questions about the Iraqi government's ability to provide security.

Furthermore, Iraqi officials are still trying to sort out their affairs after the recent election which left both Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and main challenger Ayad Allawi without a clear majority.

The success against al-Qaida is an indication that the Iraqi government continues to function despite the uncertainties about who its next leader will be. And there's some thinking it could boost Maliki's chances of retaining power.