Friday, August 24, 2007

Perspective: Sadr's militia winning battle for hearts and minds

Above: A paratrooper from the 82nd Airborne Division passes in front of a poster including the image of Moqtada Al Sadr while searching a house in April.

In the east Baghdad strongholds of the Al Mahdi militia, U.S. efforts to weaken ties between the militant Shiite Muslim group and the Shiite population are falling short, say American soldiers assigned to carry out the plan.

The attempt to shift the loyalty of residents to the Iraqi central government is failing because the militia is far more popular than anything the Americans have to offer, many troops say.

The campaign in Baghdad's poor Shiite neighborhoods is seen as an important part of the broader U.S. counterinsurgency campaign underway in Shiite and Sunni Arab neighborhoods across Baghdad. Although commanders say the overall strategy is bringing Baghdad increasingly under U.S. and Iraqi government control, enlisted men and noncommissioned officers say it is flawed.

"They want to have the militia here," said one experienced noncommissioned officer who has served multiple tours in Iraq. "So, why are we here?"

Read the rest at the LA Times