US military: Al-Qaida 'off-balance' but still lethal threat in Iraq

The US military distanced itself Sunday from remarks declaring al-Qaida in Iraq close to defeat, saying the terror network is "off-balance and on the run" but remains a very lethal threat. However, Rear Adm. Patrick Driscoll, a military spokesman, said violence has dropped some 70 percent since a US troop buildup began nearly a year ago. Underscoring the continuing dangers, a roadside bomb targeted a patrol of US-allied Sunni Arab fighters near a mosque in northern Baghdad, killing one of the so-called Awakening Council members and wounding three others, a police official said. Driscoll was responding to a question about comments made Saturday by US Ambassador Ryan Crocker, who said that Iraqi forces have made important progress in confronting extremists.