Sunday, March 11, 2007

Perspective: Troops score small victories

Children follow a soldier based at Combat Outpost War Eagle as he patrols in the Adhamiya district of Baghdad

Combat Outpost War Eagle, Iraq — The high-value target was shacked up with a prostitute.

That, at least, was the story provided by an Iraqi man who approached this combat outpost dug into the muddy east bank of the Tigris River in Baghdad. The target was Usama Kokez, a Sunni accused of leading a kidnapping ring that had executed several Shiite civilians.

The tip sent 1st Lt. Larry Pitts and his troops on a wild dash through the dark streets of Adhamiya in northwest Baghdad, their night-vision goggles on and their headlights off. For a battalion of 82nd Airborne paratroopers that is part of the "surge" of 21,500 troops being dispatched to stabilize Baghdad and Al Anbar province to the west, the Kokez tip was one small return on an investment.

The unit had been hiking down garbage-strewn streets for three weeks, imploring Iraqis to provide information on insurgents and militias in Shiite and Sunni neighborhoods. Such boots-on-the-ground probing is a staple of counterinsurgency warfare, but it was scrapped several months after U.S.-led forces invaded Iraq in 2003. Now it has been revived in the face of a rampant insurgency and a devastating sectarian war.

Read the rest at the LA Times