Top US general in Iraq, David Petraeus: Troop surge is working

America's troop surge in Iraq has sharply reduced sectarian killings and roadside bombings and lowered al-Qaida's influence, the top US general in the country said in an interview published Friday. "We say we have achieved progress, and we are obviously going to do everything we can to build on that progress and we believe al-Qaida is off balance at the very least," The Australian newspaper quoted Gen. David Petraeus as saying. Petraeus said there had been a 75 percent drop in ethnic and religious killings since last year, a doubling in the number of seizures of insurgent weapons caches between January and August, a drop in the number of coalition deaths from roadside bombs, and an increase in the killing and capture of al-Qaida fighters, the newspaper said. The rise in al-Qaida "kills and captures" had caused the group to lose influence with Sunni Muslims, it quoted the general as saying.