Monday, February 05, 2007

Perspective: An all-day 5 mile trip to Alamo on the Tigis

The 100 American soldiers who live here call it the Alamo, although their superiors hate the connotations of defeat. The camp is a cluster of six heavily fortified houses on the front line of the vicious sectarian war being fought by Sunnis and Shias in the district of Ghazaliyah, in west Baghdad.

It has no water, no heating and only the most primitive latrines. One hot meal is brought in daily by lorry. Every window is sandbagged. The men sleep cheek by jowl, their nights interrupted by gunfire and explosions. A lone chandelier serves as a poignant reminder of happier times. “It sucks,” one private protested.

But the “Alamo” also represents President Bush’s last best hope of restoring order to the Iraqi capital. It is the first of 20 joint security stations (JSS) that the US military intends to establish in the hotspots of Baghdad using some of the 21,000 extra troops that Mr Bush is deploying to Iraq. These garrisons are supposed to suppress the fighting, train their Iraqi Army colleagues and encourage local people to turn on Shia al-Mahdi Army militiamen and Sunni al-Qaeda types.

It is a big departure from keeping US troops cooped up in huge, isolated bases, but 48 hours in Ghazaliyah left The Times wondering whether — four years after the fall of Saddam Hussein — it was not too little, too late. Ghazaliyah is barely five miles from the green zone, but it takes most of a day to get there: three hours waiting for a helicopter to the airport on the western edge of the city, three more waiting for a convoy of Humvees to take us to the JSS past Baghdad’s long-abandoned racecourse.

Read the rest at the Times of London