WASHINGTON - A US combat commander suggested Friday the United States could lose the war in Iraq if public support for it at home is sapped by negative media coverage.

"My personal opinion is that the only way we will lose this war is if we pull out prematurely," said Colonel Jeffrey Snow, a brigade commander in Baghdad.

"I would hope we get the time and support we need to finish this mission," he said in a video conference from Iraq.

Snow, whose own troops have come under stepped-up insurgent attacks this month, criticized media coverage as too focused on insurgent roadside bombings, kidnappings and assassinations.

"Our soldiers may be in the crosshairs every day, but it is the American voter who is a real target, and it is the media that carries the message back each day across the airwaves," he said.

"So when the news is not balanced and it's always bad, that clearly leads to negative perceptions back home," he said.

Snow leads the 1st Brigade of the 10th Mountain Division, which is winding up a year-long tour in Iraq. He said it had made progress in training Iraqi troops to replace it.

He acknowledged insurgent attacks have gone up in his western Baghdad area of operations since the start of a city-wide security crackdown ordered by the new Iraqi government earlier this month.

Increased checkpoints and foot patrols in Baghdad had drawn an increase in insurgent attacks, he said.

"The way I would answer that is that attacks here recently are up in our area. However, the overall effectiveness are down," he said.

"So you may perceive that as double-speak. I don't have the precise numbers in front of me," he added.

06/30/2006 16:02 GMT

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