Friday, February 23, 2007

Perspective: Fighting the 'three-block war'

A soldier provides cover as another repositions during fighting in Buhriz two weeks ago

BUHRIZ, Iraq — In a muddy, half-collapsed police station northeast of Baghdad, in the heart of insurgent territory, 30 American and 60 Iraqi troopers hunker down amid constant mortar fire and study how to undermine an enemy who is literally next door. Such ramshackle compounds are likely signs of the future in Iraq.

Militants, once dismissed as "dead-enders" on their "last legs," continue to confound American tacticians, and U.S. war planners are shifting strategy. Instead of storming an area to drive away militants and then withdrawing to the relative safety of big bases, select forces are being stationed among the insurgents themselves in the heart of communities around Iraq, where soldiers are warned to be "ready each day to be greeted with a handshake or a hand grenade."

The idea is to fight the "three-block war" — in the words of the Pentagon's first new counterinsurgency manual in 20 years, a 242-page document written in part by the new commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus.

Read the rest at the Houston Chronicle