Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Perspective: Baghdad's outposts bring new perils

Concertina wire goes up around a Joint Security Station in Baghdad

BAGHDAD - Soldiers in the US Army's 4th Brigade, 1st Infantry Division raised their hands in salute as the body of a fallen comrade was whisked into the moonless Baghdad night aboard a Black Hawk helicopter.

The soldier was one of three killed Tuesday in a pair of roadside-bomb attacks – just four days after their battalion set out to establish a combat outpost in the city's Al Amel neighborhood.

The troops are among those that began arriving a month ago in a push to pacify Iraq's restive capital. And for those who saluted the departing helicopter, the deaths sharply underscored the perils of stepped-up patrols in urban areas. That approach is a U-turn from the previous plan that had American soldiers living in fortified bases and going out on occasional patrols.

But the neighborhood outposts are at the heart of the new US and Iraqi plan to stem the sectarian violence that has engulfed Baghdad and to slowly convince residents that Iraqi forces, especially the national police, are there to serve them and not to facilitate the activities of militias and extremist groups.

Read the rest at the Christian Science Monitor