Perspective: Time is new enemy for US troops
IN THE Oubaidy neighbourhood in the eastern part of Baghdad, American soldiers hired a local Iraqi man to clean the portaloos at their combat outpost. Before the man could start, members of the local Shiite militia threatened to kill him.
Today the portaloos are roped off and the soldiers, who could not promise to protect their sewage man, are forced to burn their waste.
As part of the Bush Administration's troop "surge" strategy, the US unit had moved into an abandoned factory hoping to push out the militia, protect existing jobs and provide stability for economic growth. Instead, militia members stymied development projects, cut off the water supply and brutally executed two young Iraqi women seen talking to American soldiers, sending a powerful message about who really controls the streets of Oubaidy.
Tomorrow the Bush Administration is scheduled to release a preliminary assessment of its overall Iraq strategy. Officials may point to signs of progress scattered across the country: a reduction in death-squad killings in Baghdad, agreements with tribal leaders in Anbar province, offensives north and south of the capital.
The US President, George Bush, defended his strategy on Tuesday, demanding that Congress give the Administration more time and insisting that America can "win this fight in Iraq".
But as the experience of the troops in Oubaidy indicates, US forces have so far been unable to establish security, even for themselves.
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