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Insurgency weak, Crocker says

FRIDAY, JULY 25, 2008

The insurgency that bedeviled U.S. forces for years and killed thousands of Iraqis and Americans has withered to the point where it is “not even much of a challenge any more” to Iraq’s future, Ambassador Ryan Crocker said Thursday in an interview with the Associated Press.

Crocker, a veteran Mideast envoy who plans to wind up a nearly two-year tour here in January, would not rule out that Iraq could again descend into sectarian warfare in a contest for power and resources. But he expressed optimism that ordinary Iraqis, enjoying a new calm on their streets, will not allow it.

“You talk to people (Iraqis), and they just say, ‘Never again. We almost destroyed ourselves,’ ” he said. “There is almost a kind of embarrassment over it: ‘How could we Iraqis do that?’ ”

His characterization of the state of the insurgency was striking, given its central role in the more than 5-year war and its proven ability to adjust, regroup and recruit. Crocker did not assert that the insurgency was dead, but he came close to casting it as having surrendered the initiative and lost its appeal.

“Under current circumstances, it’s not a threat and arguably not even much of a challenge any more,” Crocker said.

Ciudad Juarez, Mexico

Prison director gunned down

A Mexican police official says gunmen have killed a state prison director in the border city of Ciudad Juarez.

City police spokesman Jaime Torres says prison chief Salvador Barreno was shot Thursday as he drove in Ciudad Juarez, across from El Paso, Texas. His bodyguard was also killed.

More than 500 people have been murdered in Ciudad Juarez this year in a wave of violence blamed on drug gangs.


France to cut military by 54,000

France’s military will slash its ranks by 54,000 personnel and close dozens of air, army and other bases in an overhaul meant to slim forces at home while making it easier and faster to deploy troops abroad, the prime minister announced Thursday.

Prime Minister Francois Fillon said the 15 percent cut in manpower and base closings will save billions of dollars but still permit an agile military suited to the country’s security needs.

France’s military is believed to number about 350,000, including gendarmes.

From wire reports


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