Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Perspective: U.S. troop buildup felt in Iraq hotspots

Above: Soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division provide rooftop security with an M240B automatic weapon from behind camouflage netting as they guard 'Route Gnat' between Arab Jabour and Baghdad at Patrol Base Murray in June.

From this base in insurgent country south of Baghdad, there are no doubts that the U.S. decision to pour 30,000 additional troops into the fight has had an effect.

Before the 3rd Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade arrived in mid-June, the area around Patrol Base Murray was known as the Triangle of Death - a safe haven for al-Qaida in Iraq to ambush Shiites, launch mortar and rocket attacks into the Green Zone and rig car bombs, suicide vests and other weapons for use in the capital...

"Our job was to stop the flow of accelerants to Baghdad," Lt. Col. Ken Adgie, commander of the 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, said Monday, referring to bombs, bullets and fighters that accelerate the conflict.

"Take a look. Have the number of incidents in Baghdad slowed? It's working," he said.

More than just adding more boots on the ground, Petraeus' strategy called for the establishment of smaller combat outposts like Patrol Base Murray to encourage soldiers to get to know the local population and get closer to the insurgency.

The base was built right on "Route Gnat" - the only paved road from the Arab Jabour area into Baghdad. Many of the dirt roads have been shut down, said Brig. Gen. Jim Huggins, the 3rd Division's operational commander for the region.

"It's allowed us to set up a blocking line to interdict the accelerants on the way in - explosives, suicide vests, even fighters - and that's being reflected in what we are seeing in Baghdad," he said.

"You can't always defend from the goal line."

Read the rest at the Las Vegas Sun