Uncle Reeker Wants You!
Bill Ardolino Back To Fallujah

A bunch of good news about Iraq

Msunder_2Let's start with Ms. Underestimated and a video about an Army Capt. who rescues an Iraqi kid from a well. And it doesn't make me a bad person that this logo makes me say damn! I should post the hottest logos of the blogosphere, hmmmmm. Anyhow go watch the nice officer man save the nice child.

Bill Ardolino and the ever popular MKH team up for a production about life for the Iraqis closest to the fray shot this January. The fact is every time recruiting for Iraqi Police opens up there are lines of folks defying AQ and everyone else. The more deals we make with local sheiks, the more their young people help us ventilate tangos.

LT Fishman delivers this weeks Surge Wrap

Haifa Street: A Sign Of Progress In Iraq

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Aug. 5, 2007 (CBS NEWS) With barely six weeks to go before his report on how well, or not, things are going in Iraq, General David Petraeus went out to show off a success story, reports CBS News correspondent Allen Pizzey.  Haifa Street is an example of how the general's counter-insurgency plan is supposed to work.  Haifa Street used to be another way of saying utter chaos. In January this year, it was the scene of the bitterest and bloodiest street fighting that Baghdad has experienced.  These days it's a good place not just for Iraqis but for the general to practice street politics and public relations. There have been no significant security incidents here since the end of April, and credit for the change is put down, in part, to involving local leaders rather than lavishing money around.

The big money projects to rebuild Iraq have so far proved less than impressive.  It's the small ones that seem to do best — street by street, block by block. It's a long slow process. But, the peaceful veneer of Haifa Street is misleading. The insurgents merely retreated across the Tigris River to infest another neighborhood that the U.S. military must clear and rebuild. The hope is that the example of Haifa Street will accelerate the process. "What's good about this area is you can see what happens once security is established," said Lt. Colonel Jeff Peterson. "Eventually we will be able to phase our way out of this, but for the time being it's pretty important that we stay here and provide this over all umbrella of security."  Residents moving back to apartments abandoned during the fighting agree. "As Americans stay here, there is safety," said Bassam Hillal. That's pretty much the line the general must sell to the politicians back home, which might be why he's warming up his campaigning skills here.

2) Analysis: Military Makes Gains in Iraq http://abcnews.go.com/International/WireStory?id=3452706&page=1 ABC News: U.S. Making New Military Gains in Iraq but Final Outcome Hinges on Iraqi Involvement By ROBERT BURNS AP Military Writer BAGHDAD Aug 6, 2007 (AP)  The new U.S. military strategy in Iraq, unveiled six months ago to little acclaim, is working. In two weeks of observing the U.S. military on the ground and interviewing commanders, strategists and intelligence officers, it's apparent that the war has entered a new phase in its fifth year. It is a phase with fresh promise yet the same old worry: Iraq may be too fractured to make whole. No matter how well or how long the U.S. military carries out its counterinsurgency mission, it cannot guarantee victory. Only the Iraqis can. And to do so they probably need many more months of heavy U.S. military involvement. Even then, it is far from certain that they are capable of putting this shattered country together again. It's been an uphill struggle from the start to build Iraqi security forces that are able to fight and more importantly at this juncture able to divorce themselves from deep-rooted sectarian loyalties. It is the latter requirement evenhandedness and reliability that is furthest from being fulfilled. There is no magic formula for success. And magic is what it may take to turn military gains into the strategy's ultimate goal: a political process that moves Iraq's rival Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds from the brink of civil war to the threshold of peace and to get there on a timetable that takes account of growing war fatigue in the United States. Efforts at Iraqi reconciliation saw another blow Monday: Five Cabinet ministers loyal to Iraq's first post-Saddam Hussein leader decided to boycott government meetings, further deepening a crisis that threatens Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The boycott would leave the Shiite-led government with no Sunni participants, at least temporarily.Despite political setbacks, American commanders are clinging to a hope that stability might be built from the bottom up with local groups joining or aiding U.S. efforts to root out extremists rather than from the top down, where national leaders have failed to act.

3) 25,000 Iraqis turn against insurgency, military says
By Jim Michaels, USA TODAY http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2007-08-05-tribes_N.htm
The U.S. strategy to build alliances with mostly Sunni tribal and local leaders has prompted 25,000 of their followers to turn away from the insurgency and at least nominally align with Iraq's Shiite-led government in the fight against al-Qaeda.The number, from the U.S. command in Iraq, represents the first stab at measuring the effectiveness of the tribal strategy. The trend is likely to be a critical part of a report due in September to Congress and the White House by the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus."I think it is the most significant thing that's happened in the past couple years," said Marine Maj. Gen. Mastin Robeson, deputy chief of staff for strategy and plans for Multi-National Force-Iraq. "They actually have come to us saying, 'We want to join you, we want to fight al-Qaeda.' "Iraq's Shiite-dominated central government has taken almost no legislative action to resolve differences with minority Sunnis and broaden support for the government. The U.S. military's tribal strategy is an effort to build links with groups, many of them armed, at the local level and tap into their hostility toward al-Qaeda.The strategy was initially aimed at Sunnis, which have made up the bulk of the insurgency against U.S. troops and the Iraqi government. Its goal was to separate former members of Saddam Hussein's ruling Baath party and other "nationalist" insurgents from more extremist al-Qaeda militants who want to impose a strict form of Islamic law and form a government stretching across all the Muslim world.More recently, the U.S. strategy has broadened to include local Shiite leaders opposing extremist militias. Petraeus and other top commanders have cited alliances with tribal and other local leaders as an important sign of progress. "What we're starting to realize more and more is that reconciliation at the bottom may be the more important element in the short term," Petraeus said recently.Alliances with local fighters are not among the 18 benchmarks established by Congress to measure the effectiveness of a troop increase that bumped the U.S. military presence in Iraq from about 130,000 to 160,000 this year.Andrew Krepinevich, a counterinsurgency expert at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said the tribal and local alliances are a good idea — but one with risks.Tribal loyalty could be fleeting. Many tribes don't share democratic values or have much sympathy for Iraq's central government. "This is an alliance of convenience," Krepinevich said. "It's not necessarily an alliance of convictions."Tribes are groups of people who are loosely linked through blood ties. In parts of Iraq, particularly rural Sunni areas, tribal leaders are powerful figures. Some Iraqis place tribal ties above national identity.Some tribes turned on al-Qaeda and worked with U.S. forces last year in Anbar province, west of the capital.The U.S. military, working with the Iraqi government, has tried to spread the movement throughout Iraq."We aren't arming them," Defense Secretary Robert Gates told CNN Sunday. "There is no need to do that. Everybody in Iraq has several weapons, it looks like. We are providing them with some training and some money."Tribe members and others who agree to support Iraq's government have to sign a pledge form and consent to biometric scans of their fingerprints and retinas so their data can be kept on file. They are also vetted by the Iraqi government.About 25,000 have signed the pledge, most in recent months. "It's happening so quickly, the numbers are never up to date," Robeson said.Iraq's government expressed early concerns about the plan, fearing it could boost the power of mostly Sunni tribes outside government control."There are questions in the minds of much of the federal leadership," Robeson said. "They've had to take some time to get their arms around it."The Iraqi government has agreed to go along with the alliances on the condition that local fighters are eventually brought into Iraq's security forces.Iraq's army, police and other security forces consist of 346,500 trained personnel, according to the Pentagon.Robeson said U.S. officials have been careful to pursue the strategy in a way that doesn't threaten Iraq's government.U.S. officers say the movement may be a turning point in efforts to defeat the insurgency. The U.S. military's new counterinsurgency manual emphasizes the importance of depriving insurgents of public support."This is a tectonic shift in what's happening in Iraq," said Army Col. Sean MacFarland. As a brigade commander in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar, MacFarland was responsible for building the first tribal alliances last year.

4) Adhamiyah residents oust terrorists from mosque, help uncover weapons cache FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE RELEASE No. 20070806-07 August 6, 2007 BAGHDAD — Fed-up with violent and indiscriminate terror tactics, a group of more than 80 residents of the Adhamiyah District on the east side of the Iraqi capital banded together to oust suspected terrorists from a local mosque Aug. 5.  The uprising led to a string of events over the next 12 hours that ultimately resulted in the arrest of 44 suspected terrorists and the capture of three weapons caches. The initial take-over of the Abu Hanifa Mosque occurred at approximately 2 p.m., apparently triggered by news that terrorists had murdered two relatives of a prominent local sheik. As the news spread, angry residents joined the sheik to storm the mosque, long-believed to be a sanctuary for terrorists operating in the area, and ousted the suspected terrorists inside from the building. Iraqi Army troops from the 1st Battalion, 1st Brigade, 11th Infantry Division responded quickly to control the situation and secure the area around the mosque. Residents led them to several individuals among those ousted from the mosque, who were suspected of being involved in terrorist activities. Thirteen suspects were eventually detained. After order was restored, the Iraqi Army received a tip about a weapons cache hidden in the vicinity of the mosque. At approximately 7 p.m., Iraqi forces returned to the Abu Hanifa Mosque and uncovered a massive illegal weapons cache in an outside courtyard. The cache contained several already-assembled improvised explosive devices, dynamite, mortars, rockets, landmines, bomb-making materials and various weapons.Shortly after midnight, acting on information volunteered by Adhamiyah residents, Iraqi forces and Coalition Forces from the 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, attached to the 82nd Airborne Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team, mounted a combined cordon and search operation of the Al Assaf Mosque in the nearby Maghrib neighborhood. The mosque was entered and cleared by the Iraqi Soldiers, who took three suspects into custody.Immediately afterwards, Iraqi and U.S. forces returned to the Abu Hanifa Mosque area to investigate reports of additional weapons caches. Iraqi soldiers again entered the building to search the mosque compound and the cemetery behind it. They discovered two more weapons caches, which contained two IEDs, 16 mortars, two hand grenades, a sniper rifle, remote detonation devices, radios and more than a dozen weapons. Twenty-eight suspects were taken into custody.  “I think this was a turning point,” said Lt. Col. Jeff Broadwater, commander of 3-7th Cavalry.  “The people of Adhamiyah have made their stand, and they’ve showed by their actions that terrorists are not going to be able to come into their backyard and engage in violent acts any longer.”

5) Ranking Senate Democrat Concedes Surge Is Working http://www.nysun.com/article/60135
BY ELI LAKE - Staff Reporter of the Sun August 9, 2007 WASHINGTON — The no. 2 Democrat in the Senate — the assistant majority leader, Richard Durbin of Illinois — is conceding that the surge of American troops has led to military progress in Iraq. His comments make him the second Democratic leader in 10 days to make comments that could open the door for the majority party in Congress to pivot away from its insistence on a deadline for an American retreat. Speaking to CNN yesterday while visiting Baghdad, Mr. Durbin said, "We found that today as we went to a forward base in an area that, in the fifth year of the war, it's the first time we're putting troops on the ground to intercept Al Qaeda."Those words are a long way from a statement Mr. Durbin made on the floor of the Senate on May 16. Then, just before voting for an amendment to set a hard deadline for the withdrawal of troops, he said there was no hope for Iraq: "This morning, the White House announced that the president has finally found a general who will accept the responsibility for the execution of this war. Why did four generals before him refuse this assignment? Because those four generals know, the American people know, and this Senate knows that the administration's policy in Iraq has failed."While Mr. Durbin and Senator Casey, a Democrat of Pennsylvania, have acknowledged recent military progress, they were more pessimistic about political progress. They told CNN that they saw little evidence that the Iraqi parliament would soon reach a political compact between Kurds, Shiites, and Sunnis.Their political pessimism was underscored yesterday when Prime Minister Maliki arrived in Tehran for meetings with President Ahmadinejad of Iran, and American jets began bombing Sadr City, a Shiite neighborhood in Baghdad named after the grandfather of a populist Iraqi cleric, Moqtada al Sadr. The campaign in Sadr City is part of a larger offensive planned for in the coming weeks that seeks to take the offensive to strongholds of Mr. Sadr's militia, the Mahdi Army, and to continue the fight against Iranian intelligence networks. American generals have accused those networks of providing terrorists with lethal roadside bombs capable of puncturing the bottom of most American Humvees. In light of the lack of progress on the political front, General David Petraeus is expected to make the case next month before Congress that the success of the military campaign against Al Qaeda and against Mr. Sadr's and Iran's networks will pay dividends politically down the road, but not in the near future. General Petraeus has consulted with a number of more moderate Democrats in and out of Congress, including Messrs. Durbin and Casey. Last week, Rep. James Clyburn, a Democrat of South Carolina who serves as House majority whip, said the "Blue Dog" caucus of more conservative Democrats in the House will reserve judgment on withdrawal legislation until hearing from General Petraeus. Also last week, the White House touted an opinion piece in the New York Times by two scholars at the Brookings Institution who are known for advising Democrats, Kenneth Pollack and Michael O'Hanlon.That op-ed argued that continuing the surge into next year could leave Iraq in far better shape than if the surge was ended prematurely because of votes in Congress.
Despite the recognition from some Democrats that the military strategy is working, it may still not be enough to get them to vote against a hard deadline for withdrawal.Mr. Casey yesterday said that he supported the amendment last month from the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, a Democrat from Nevada, to end the surge by April."I think they're the right votes and continue to be the right votes. We have to make sure that the diplomacy and the political work is done in Washington, as well as in Baghdad. What we're seeing now is the Iraqi government officials have left, we're seeing Sunni representatives have walked out and are boycotting. So the political work in Baghdad and Washington has yet to match the courage and the dedication of our troops. We haven't seen that yet," Mr. Casey said.Last month, a Sunni Islamist front known as Tawafuq withdrew its members from parliament in protest.Negotiations have started again to bring these Sunnis back into the Maliki government.

6) Businessmen Meet to restore Iraqi banking system
http://www.iraqupdates.com/p_articles.php/article/20385  07 August 2007 (Iraq Directory) A meeting was held attended by thirty bank businessmen from government and private banks and financial institutions in addition to other Iraqi businessmen and members of local councils in Karadah in eastern Baghdad on July 28. An American army statement said banking institutions are necessary to stabilize the economy in any country and Iraqis have worked in the last four years to provide stability in addition to basic services, and some are now focusing on the banking system. The meeting brought together representatives of the American army and members of the local reconstruction team.Cash is currently the predominant transaction mode, but bankers want to change that; they not only want the system to be trusted, but they are seeking the citizens' help to restore life to previous work that had been stopped.Among the most important points the conferees were concerned with was the loan rate for restoration work; most banks are willing to provide loans, but because of the fragility of the market and security fears, these banks demand double the rates.

7) Pressed by U.S., a Wary U.N. Now Plans Larger Iraq Role http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/07/AR2007080701076_pf.html
By Colum Lynch Washington Post Staff Writer Wednesday, August 8, 2007; A01 -- The United Nations has offered to increase its presence in Baghdad for the first time in more than three years, after repeated appeals from the Bush administration for the world body to play a more active role in mediating Iraq's sectarian disputes. B. Lynn Pascoe, the top political adviser to Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, told the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday that the United Nations was prepared to boost its personnel in Iraq over the coming months. The organization is also seeking $130 million to build a heavily reinforced compound in Baghdad to house the growing U.N. mission. The U.S. push for a broader U.N. role in Iraq underscores Washington's reliance on the United Nations to strengthen international support for the war. The move also reflects a commitment by Ban, who took over as U.N. chief in January, to overcome the institution's deep aversion to aiding the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq. Ban has vowed to do more than his predecessor, Kofi Annan, who opposed the U.S. invasion, but he faces a backlash from U.N. officials who fear inheriting the Iraqi mess and from Iraqi leaders who worry that U.N. peacekeeping efforts could diminish their power. "There is an effort by the United States to try re-internationalize the Iraq venture," said Qubad Talabani, a Kurdish representative in Washington and the son of President Jalal Talabani of Iraq. "I think there would be widespread opposition to the U.N. freelancing in Iraq. Any involvement by the United Nations has to be in very close coordination with the Iraqi government."The United States and Britain are pressing for a vote Thursday on a Security Council resolution calling on the United Nations to promote talks on national reconciliation and to marshal regional and international support for Iraq. The resolution also instructs the United Nations to help resolve territorial disputes, particularly in the northern Kurdish territory, where Iraqis are preparing for a referendum on the future of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk."What is driving the conflict now is largely disagreement among the different Iraqi groups on political, economic distribution of power and to prevent unhelpful regional interference," said Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations."The U.N. needs to play a bigger role that can help the Iraqis overcome these difficulties. . . . One of the advantages of the U.N. is that it can reach out to many groups and some groups that do not want to talk to other external players," he said, referring to the United States and Britain.Pascoe told the Security Council on Tuesday that the U.N. staff in Baghdad could grow by nearly 50 percent, with the ceiling on workers in the capital rising from 65 to 95 by October.Khalilzad also has pressed the United Nations to name a dynamic new special envoy to head the U.N. mission in Baghdad, replacing Ashraf Jehangir Qazi of Pakistan, who will step down in the coming months. Front-runners include Staffan de Mistura of Sweden, a former deputy U.N. envoy in Iraq; and Jean Arnault, a Frenchman who ran U.N. operations in Afghanistan, Guatemala and Georgia. Ban and Pascoe, a former U.S. diplomat, have been keen on carving out a more active role for the institution in Iraq. Pascoe has been seeking to head off a bureaucratic insurrection after the publication of an op-ed article by Khalilzad in the New York Times late last month outlining an expansive new role for the United Nations in Iraq.At a recent meeting, Pascoe urged his top advisers to tell their staff members that the United Nations has no intention of inheriting the mission in Iraq and that the United Nations would simply expand the role it is already playing there. "The subject of cut-and-run, dump, all that stuff, it's not even out there," Pascoe said in an interview describing Ban's meetings with Bush and other administration officials."We were talking about areas where we might be able to be of some help. Clearly, the Americans were saying they'd like to have the help," Pascoe added. "We are, I think, seen as more neutral, maybe, in this process than others. We not only have the contacts, but we could talk to everybody." A meaningful role for the United Nations, however, will depend on "what the Iraqis writ large want to do, not only the government, but the other groups."

8) Ramadi: Open for Business
On Point with Andrew Lubin 08-06-2007, 02:58 PM • by ON Point
“This place is dynamic ! The people are working ‘round the clock, and it’s all positive,” said Kristen Hagerstrom, leader of the ePRT ( embedded Provincial  Reconstruction Team ) based in Ramadi. Mrs. Hagerstom spent an hour talking with OnPoint Sunday about the economic and administrative successes in the city.When 1st Battalion, 6th Marines left Ramadi in June, they’d successfully cleared the city of Al-Quada, and formed a successful partnership with Sheik Sattar al-rishi and his newly-formed “Sons of Anbar.” Long before terms like “The Surge” and “Clear-Hold-Build” entered the Pentagon and American public’s vocabulary; 1/ 6 Marines had fought and cleared Ramadi and established outposts at 17th Street, the Government Center, Khatanna, and others, and then turned them over to their enthusiastic Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police replacements.“…and we arrived in April at a perfect time,” Mrs. Hagerstrom continued. “the city just had experienced thirteen days without a shot being fired, Mayor Latif was coming into his own as a mayor, and the Sunni’s were volunteering to join the police in record numbers.” Her ePRT Team arrived soon after 1st BCT, 3rd ID ( under Col John Charleton ) formally took over Ramadi. 1st BCT’s  6,000 Army, Marines, Navy, and Air Force have aggressively and successfully continued to expand these newly positive dynamics.The Provisional Reconstruction Teams are part of Gen. David Petraeus’s counter-insurgency strategy; keep the people employed, get them a salary, and they’ll be too busy working being heads of households again to be insurgents. Sent by the State Department, the PRT’s and ePRT’s bring specialized skills in order to help the Iraqi towns and municipalities regain their administrative skills, help establish jobs and businesses, along with the necessary ancillary services like fuel distribution and electricity.Kristen Hagerstrom has 17 years experience in the Foreign Service; David Smale, also Foreign Service, is their USAID representative. Bill Marks and Denis Sheally are DoD civilians; both ex- Air Force; Marks is working on getting the local ceramics factory up and working, and Sheally is advising the Ramadi government on how to deliver services such as water, sewage, and trash removal to the people.In the Middle East, personal relations are of utmost importance, and relations with Ramadi’s Mayor, Latif Obaid are excellent. Mayor Latif took office in January, with no budget, no staff, and a city council that was fearful of meeting. Today he has his own office, staff, a budget, and an active and aggressive city council, and city managers. Recently he was spotted at midnight, in a hardhat helping laborers complete a water system into a part of Ramadi that hadn’t had running water in 2 years. “When he called us at midnight to brag about the water being back on,” said Mrs. Hegarstrom, “we could hear the townspeople cheering in the background. This mayor is getting things accomplished!”Ramadi is the home to many of the educated and retired Sunni diplomats, soldiers, and professionals from Saddam’s regime; the talent for reconstruction has been available, if not  co-operative. But with Sheik Sattar’s Sons of Anbar joining with Coalition forces and regaining control of the province from Al-Quada, the managerial talent has suddenly re-appeared. Latif’s Deputy mayor had been a diplomat based in Havana, but as Bill Marks said “He gets it now; he knows we’re just here to help, and not take over, and he and his circle are getting more and more involved in managing and governing.” With reconstruction work booming for any teen and early 20’s male who will wield a shovel; salaries have increased in the last three months to almost $ 10 / day. Hegarstrom again “There is work for everyone, which has three main benefits. 1 – it cleans up the city, 2 now they’ve got money, they’re empowered, and so they keep out of trouble, and  3 since they have money, shops are opening, and now we have the basics of an economy.Marks is responsible for re-opening the big state-owned glass plant. Producing both glass products and ceramics, under Saddam it had 1,800 employees. Marks will be re-opening the ceramics side first; he’s located the necessary work force, and expects to open this October – November. “They’ll be making floor tiles, wall tiles, and sanitary items ( sinks & toilets ), all of which will be used locally. We’ll have approx 250 people in each section, so within a few months we’ll have 750 people back to work.” Most of the raw materials are available locally, and all the production will be sold into the local building boom, which will also serve to boost the economy in Ramadi and Anbar.With Hegarstom’s ePRT about 1/3rd the size of a normal State Department PRT, they were fortunate to have some military talent join them.LtCol Christine Rem, an Army nurse, is the Civil Affairs liaison who also deals with health, education, and women's issues.  There are approximately 80,000 children ( K-12) attending dozens of schools. With the children having missed some three years of formal schooling during the past insurgency, reopening and staffing the school has been one of Mayor Latif’s priorities. An unexpected benefit is that with the Iraqi education system founded by the British, the children normally wear uniforms to school the re-opening of the schools has given rise to dozens of new tailor shops, creating yet more employment. Lt Col Morris Gray Army works budgets and small business. Navy CMDR Kevin Anderson handles agricultural issues and electricity. Through cooperation and coordination between Mayor Latif, the local Army Corps of Engineers unit, and Cmdr Anderson, electricity availability in Ramadi is now 80 %. With the electricity coming in from the huge hydroelectric plant in Haditha, security is provided by the local Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police units, with overwatch provided by the Marines from 2MEF.CMDR Emory Haskel is Reservist lawyer who works on rule of law issues, and they are days away from having criminal courts reopen. MSgt Jay Thornton handles issues of food distribution and neighborhood councils. A very successful program is the program for shopkeepers.  These Grants have an value average $2500. No money handed over rather the recipient finds a suitable storefront, and the grant pays for a complete shop. The ePRT’s are fielding requests from some 50 different types of shops, from butcher to bakers to fabric shops and small corner groceries. At this moment dozens have been completed, meaning the store has been delivered on-site and opened. The expectation is for hundred to be opened  in the next few months. Each store is averaging three employees, which also serves to channel their wages back into the economy. But what is happening these days is possible because of the relations between the Sunnis in Ramadi and Anbar, as led by Sheik Sattar. As he said this winter when being visited by Deputy Under Secretary of State John Negroponte :I would like to convey greetings from the Sons of Anbar to the American people. I want to give my condolences for the American blood shed in the Anbar Province to the American people, and I ask the Army and Marines to stay because we would be an easy target for terrorists. Stay until we gain our strength, and then staying is up to you. The policy started by 1st Battalion, 6th Marines has not changed; it’s still “clear-hold-build…but all done at the same time,” that lets the ice cream shops and school-children co-exist peacefully and profitably next to the police stations staffed by their motivated Sunni neighbors. While all is far from perfect, as opposed to the Administration’s plans to “write off” Ramadi, Mayor Latif Obaid can proudly and accurately announce “Ramadi is open for business”.

9) Baghdad Is for Capitalists

Carter Andress is author of the new book Contractor Combatant: Tales of an Imbedded Capitalist. He’s an armed entrepreneur (and former Army infantry officer) living and working in Iraq as CEO of American-Iraqi Solutions Group. He took questions Monday from the Green Zone in Baghdad from National Review Online editor Kathryn LOPEZ: How long have you been in Iraq? How long will you stay? ANDRESS: I first came to Iraq in January 2004 and lived in Baghdad full time until the end of June 2005. I then went back to the U.S. to write my book, spend time with wife and my children, until I got called back in November of 2006 and have been here ever since, with a couple two-week vacations. I plan to stay as long as the Iraqis will let me.LOPEZ: How’s the surge going from where you sit? ANDRESS: From our perspective the surge is getting the job done on the security front. We built two camps for the additional Iraqi soldiers entering the capital as part of the surge. Our part of central Baghdad has never been quieter since the beginning of January 2004. The active operations of the US forces have enabled the Iraqi security forces to establish control over the streets; Iraqi checkpoints are now everywhere and they are being controlled by a central operations center run by Iraqis. Al Anbar — formerly the heartland of the insurgency — where we operate an Iraqi army base in Habbaniya and just got finished constructing and are now running the Al Anbar police academy is now quiet after the local tribes turned against al Qaeda. LOPEZ: Is there an accompanying economic surge? ANDRESS: Business goes on, seemingly growing in volume every day. We are having more and more suppliers approach our company. The Sunnis who had prospered under Saddam and then fled primarily to Amman, Jordan, are now re-entering the marketplace. The real threat to the Iraqis is the al Qaeda, non-Iraqi suicide car bomber and the Iraqis continue on, mourn the dead, but life and business goes on. The Iraqis are incredibly hard working and talented people — all we need is for the security situation to stabilize further — and we will see huge economic growth just from their intrinsic entrepreneurial spirit, I believe.  LOPEZ: What do you base your assessment that “the vast majority of Iraqis — Shia, Kurds, and most secular Sunni Arabs — want America to succeed in helping to establish a peaceful, democratic Iraq, fully integrated into the world economy” on? ANDRESS: I am not saying that the Iraqis appreciate having an armed foreign force patrolling there streets. Not at all. What I am saying is that we share the same common goals. The Iraqi government came into power through a UN-certified election participated in by a higher voting percentage than what we see in the US. My above statement is part of the platform upon which the Iraqi government rests its position and derives its authority.  LOPEZ: Why do you consider yourself qualified to make such an assessment? ANDRESS: My assessment is based on the thousands of Iraqis of all sects and ethnic backgrounds with whom I have worked closely in the war zone over the last four years. From our company compound that formed part of the security buffer for a polling station located in our neighborhood school, I watched thousands of Iraqis risk life and limb to vote in the first free national elections in their history. I have been studying the Middle East for over twenty years and have a master’s in history from American University in Washington, D.C. Thus I have added an academic approach — research intensive — to my practical experience. LOPEZ: What’s the most encouraging thing Americans should know about Iraq? Something you’d like ever member of Congress to know. ANDRESS: We are winning this war because the Iraqi people are risking their lives every day to achieve the same goals the American people have in Iraq and the primary threat to those goals comes from al Qaeda foreigners, not sectarian conflict.LOPEZ: Discouraging? ANDRESS: The lack of will among many of our political leaders to see the course through to the end and allow us as a nation to be terrorized into retreating before our enemy — al Qaeda — just when they have begun to stand alone, stripped of allies, in a country beginning to enjoy the fruits of a democracy we have sacrificed much blood to help create.
10) Heavy water sewage network installed in Missan
Missan, 07 August 2007 (Voices of Iraq) Missan's sewage department installed a heavy water sewage network in the old al-Muallemeen district in central Amara, an official source from the department said on Monday."The cost of the project, which started in early June 2007, is estimated at 3.3 billion Iraqi dinars (2.7 million U.S. dollars)," Eng. Farhan Muhammad from the sewage department told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).According to Muhammad, several sewage networks were installed during the past three months, including networks in the districts of al-Naft, al-Sinaie, al-Adl, Ali al-Sharqi and Kimit.Local residents in al-Muallemeen are suffering from sewage flooding, which causes traffic chaos, especially in winter. Amara, the capital city of Missan, is 380 km southeast of Baghdad.

11) Iraq works slowly on developing a process
Progress is slow, but government is on the right track. By Kevin Ferris 10 August, 2007
Gen. David Petraeus greets Abdel Sattar Abu Risha, a tribe leader in Anbar province.
The summer recess of Iraq's parliament sent a worrisome signal to Americans concerned about U.S. troops bearing more than their share of the war's burdens.  So it's up to the high-level elected officials left behind to send a different signal: They are ready to move on benchmarks designed to promote national reconciliation, including provincial elections, de-Baathification, and a plan to share oil revenue. Gen. David Petraeus, commander of multinational forces in Iraq, would like to see signs of such readiness emerge from meetings scheduled for next week, though he recognizes the difficulty of the task ahead. "To be fair to them, they are dealing with fundamental issues that will shape Iraq for the foreseeable future, so it's somewhat understandable that there's a good bit of wrangling," he said to me in a telephone interview this week. "Provincial powers, for example. That's akin to our own debate during the creation of the U.S. about states' rights. And it took us more than a few years to resolve that." Nevertheless, as leaders gather to discuss parliamentary boycotts and other crises, Petraeus and his civilian counterpart, Ambassador Ryan Crocker, would like to see Iraqis "develop a process that can give hope they can come to grips with these tough pieces of legislation." Iraqis share Americans' impatience with the war and are aware of the urgency for political progress. "None of them are happy with the situation either," Petraeus says. Despite problems at the national level, he says local leaders who have rejected the "Taliban ideology" of al-Qaeda in Iraq are "stepping up to the plate" throughout the country, and so is the Iraqi military. Of the latter, Petraeus says, "Some need work; some still to a degree are influenced by sectarian agendas, but others are truly high-end, superb units, and a number of them are fighting with our forces and taking some very tough losses." Typically, three times U.S. casualty rates, he adds. Those efforts and more will be needed before Iraq can achieve the objectives that define winning for Petraeus: a country that can secure itself, that is not a haven for terrorists, that has achieved adequate reconciliation among ethno-sectarian groups, that is no longer in humanitarian crisis, that can enforce the basic rule of law, and that participates in the region and the international community in the manner of other independent states at peace with each other.
Standing in the way of those goals is al-Qaeda in Iraq. "They're trying to reignite sectarian violence," Petraeus says, "indiscriminately blowing people up, destroying infrastructure, trying to find another event like the destruction of the Golden Dome in Samara that sparked sectarian killings in 2006." Another problem he points to are "militia extremists trained, equipped, funded and directed by the Quds Force in Iran," which, if left unchecked, could pose the same problem in Iraq that Iran-backed Hezbollah presents in Lebanon. The surge has made a difference against both al-Qaeda and some militias, though Petraeus is very careful with the picture of Iraq he presents. For example, he will cite the "enormous progress" in Anbar province, the one-time al-Qaeda and Sunni insurgent stronghold, but he quickly follows up with a caveat on the overall picture: "I don't want to overstate. This is by far the most complex and challenging endeavor I've seen in 33 years of military service."
Petraeus reports that a seven-week offensive made possible by the surge has "achieved a good deal of tactical momentum." His forces have taken al-Qaeda sanctuaries in Baquba, north of Fallujah, and several in and around Baghdad. They've done "serious damage" to the terrorists' leadership, killing or capturing emirs and heads of car-bomb networks. More weapons caches have been seized this year than in all of 2006.Terrorist cells can still lash out with spectacular bombings, Petraeus says, but "we feel a degree of momentum. We've got the enemy moving and we're going after them. They can't get set, can't dig in with deep-buried IEDs or other preparations they otherwise might use."At the same time, other areas get by with few or no coalition units. Special forces and air support are called in as needed. Otherwise, locals take charge. In Anbar, force levels are being reduced. Even in Mosul, once an al-Qaeda center, the Iraqi army and police often operate without the assistance of the coalition battalion stationed there. Overall, in terms of the objectives the general spelled out, the picture is mixed, but the country is on the right track. As Petraeus looks over the puzzle that is Iraq, he sees more and more areas where the right pieces are in place, some sections still lacking crucial pieces, as well as areas with considerable blank spots. Ultimately, success will depend on the Iraqis filling in some of those blanks, starting with the national government.
12) Latest poll shows growing support for Iraq war policy
USA   TODAY's Susan Page reports that President Bush is making some headway in arguing that the increase in U.S. troops in Iraq is showing military progress. In the latest USA TODAY/Gallup Poll, taken Friday through Sunday, the proportion of those who said the additional troops are "making the situation better" rose to 31% from 22% a month ago. Those who said it was "not making much difference" dropped to 41% from 51%. About the same number said it was making things worse: 24% now, 25% a month ago.

13) The surge is working. What now?
http://www.examiner.com/printa-872285~The_surge_is_working._What_now?.html?cid=tool-print-top  The Washington DC Examiner Newspaper, The Examiner 2007-08-09 07:00:00.0 Washington, D.C. - There’s good news from Iraq, which has produced almost nothing but bad news since the 2003 invasion. The U.S. military surge, widely denounced as a last-ditch effort by an embattled, lame-duck president fighting an un-winnable civil war, is working. Even as vocal a war critic as Deputy Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin, D-Ill., has now acknowledged as much, telling CNN that the U.S. military is “making real progress.” Gen. David Petraeus, commander of the multi-national force in Iraq and author of the counterinsurgency surge strategy now underway, told Talk Radio host Allen Colmes that during the past seven weeks, U.S. troops have inflicted “enormous damage” on al Qaeda forces in Iraq, causing three times the losses sustained by coalition forces. Petraeus added that al Qaeda in Iraq, which is responsible for most of the high-profile car bombings and suicide attacks, has been “clearly linked to the... al Qaeda senior leadership, located in the Pakistan Afghanistan border trial areas.” In other words, beating al Qaeda in Iraq is clearly a serious blow to Osama bin Laden wherever he is hiding. The surge is also having a positive impact on Iraq’s political equation, according to Petraeus: “We’re also heartened by the number of Iraqi tribes and local citizens who have rejected al Qaeda. We cannot attribute that to the surge but the surge certainly enabled that to move much more rapidly, we believe, than it otherwise would have.”Military and political progress is heartening but with it comes a critical decision for war critics, especially Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, who declared the war lost months ago, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who last week pledged to continue seeking withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. Public support for the war effort has been growing in recent weeks and the expected positive report from Petraeus to Congress in mid-September will likely generate additional support for giving victory a chance. In other words, the political ground on which Reid and Pelosi are standing is shifting beneath them. Do they now really want to bring our boys home just when they are poised to win?This is not the time to let arm-chair generals on Capitol Hill second-guess Petraeus by demanding arbitrary withdrawal dates, abruptly cutting off funding for the counterinsurgency, or interfering with his military decisions. If true bipartisanship was ever needed in Washington, it’s now — while our nation is engaged in a military struggle with a dangerous, determined enemy.
14) South of Baghdad, a cautionary tale
After heavy losses, U.S. troops in the 'triangle of death' say they're making progress, though slowly and subtly. August 6, 2007
By Tina Susman Times Staff Writer http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-surge6aug06,0,1261635.story?coll=la-home-center
YOUSIFIYA, IRAQ — U.S. troops had nicknamed the suspected insurgent "George Clooney" because of his handsome mug, but he wasn't so pretty after members of his own Sunni tribe shot and wounded him, then turned him over to the Americans. U.S. forces say the tribe's act was an example of the payoffs from practicing the counterinsurgency techniques preached by Gen. David H. Petraeus as he enforces President Bush's troop "surge." But unlike the 28,500 newly arrived troops, soldiers here have been at it for nearly a year.  Their experience in trying to tame this palm-fringed enclave south of Baghdad, within the area sometimes called the "triangle of death," serves as a sobering reminder of how long it can take to remake a region steeped in violence, be it bucolic farmland or a chaotic city like Baghdad. They have seen victories, but they also have suffered horrific losses. And most say that the improvement in security did not begin until May, when the disappearance of three U.S. soldiers prompted a virtual lockdown of the area. "To take guys who just got here and throw them out there and say the surge isn't working, or the surge is working — it's not an educated assessment," said Lt. Col. Michael Infanti, commander of the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, or 4-31. "It takes time to work into an area." It is a message that U.S. military leaders have been sending since additional troops began arriving in Iraq in February, but it is not a message many politicians in Washington want to hear. They are awaiting a September progress report on the war, which if negative will increase pressure on Bush to begin withdrawing troops.

."We used to take a collective breath, because you knew you were going to get blown up," said Griggs, describing what patrols used to be like in the region. A wider presence In the days following the May ambush, U.S. troops from across Iraq flooded the area and rounded up virtually every man and teenage boy for questioning. Most were released as locals pointed troops toward weapons caches and suspected insurgents. Although the added search troops were temporary, they enabled Infanti to position his soldiers in areas previously out of reach and to establish a 24/7 presence. That has made locals feel safe enough to keep providing intelligence, soldiers say."Let's face it, 95% of the people in Qaraghul are not terrorists," Capt. Shane Finn said. "Really, what it comes down to is people here are sick and tired of living in terror." Finn spoke from the apocalyptic environs of a base called Dragon, on the sprawling, windblown site of a half-built power station. Construction stopped when the war began. Now, troops from the 4-31 live in the steel-and-concrete framework of the project, surrounded by giant pipes and rusted cranes jutting out of the sand. To the east are lush groves and orchards that form the southern belt of Baghdad. To the west, about a mile away, are the blue-green waters of the Euphrates River, and across from that the khaki-colored desert of Al Anbar province. This area's location and history have made it a haven for insurgent activity. During the late former President Saddam Hussein's reign, the scenic riverside villages were getaways for wealthy loyalists in his ruling Baath Party, and their sprawling villas line the roads. Many ex-Baathists joined the insurgency after Hussein's fall. They have received support from insurgents in Al Anbar, which harbored Al Qaeda-affiliated fighters until tribal leaders there turned on the insurgents last year. At a battle position a couple of miles away, Staff Sgt. Kevin Littrell was pulling guard duty, a seven-hour shift that would pass uneventfully. From behind his sandbags and camouflage netting, Littrell watched the sky turn orange with the setting sun, then erupt into a star-studded black blanket as night fell. "We're getting so much more human intelligence this year," Littrell said. "The pace really perked up after the DUSTWUN," he said, using the terminology for missing personnel — Duty Status: Whereabouts Unknown — to refer to the May 12 ambush.  Soldiers say locals approach them with information and sometimes turn down the financial rewards, from about $30 to as much as $200, that are offered when tips pan out. At the locals' request, soldiers destroyed bridges that crossed the Caveman Canal, a major irrigation source, to cut off suspected insurgent routes. In their place, U.S. forces built a new bridge that will be the sole crossing point. A checkpoint will be erected there. A fragile calm But sectarian issues slow progress here, soldiers say. The sectarian divide affects trust in the Iraqi security forces, who are overwhelmingly Shiite but who outside of Yousifiya police an overwhelmingly Sunni populace. Staff Sgt. Clark Merlin, at a patrol base in Qaraghul, recalled playing soccer with local kids one day along with other U.S. troops. As soon as some Iraqi army soldiers came to join in, women took their children home, Merlin said. "There is definitely a lot of distrust," said Merlin, who says most of the Iraqi soldiers he has seen lack the discipline to hold onto the security U.S. troops have achieved. At the joint security station in Yousifiya, where U.S. forces live alongside Iraqi police, American forces fear the relative calm may be fleeting. The Iraqi police commander for Yousifiya, Lt. Mahmoud Shakir Hamid, is a Sunni, and U.S. troops sometimes must intervene to force his Shiite officers to obey him, said Lt. Jonathan Blevins of the Army's 23rd Military Police Brigade.  Blevins and Staff Sgt. Brett Willet, two of the 39 U.S. troops living at the station, lamented the high absenteeism of the police, most of whom commute from Baghdad and who blame checkpoints, curfews or other security-related problems if they miss work. Blevins hopes this will change as a result of a police recruiting drive recently that drew more than 1,000 applicants from the region.The shooting death of the soldier July 17, the killing of an imam who had cooperated with U.S. forces in Qaraghul a few days earlier, and the beheading of a local man who had shown support for the U.S. presence underscore the perils that remain in the region.  So did the arrival at a patrol base of a man who led soldiers to a nearby house, where they found a 17-year-old with welts and lacerations on his ankles and wrists. The teenager said he had been abducted by men in a black sedan who grabbed him as he took a smoke break from tending his family's fields. He told soldiers he was beaten and then taken to a torture house and suspended by his wrists from the ceiling while his captors punched and slapped him. They berated him for smoking, saying it violated laws imposed by Islamic militant groups active in the area. The boy eventually was released, but soldiers say the incident is a sign of things to come if troops pull out. "I think the insurgents will come and mess with people who've worked with us," Merlin said. Infanti is more of an optimist. He says the Iraqi army battalion here is the best he has seen, and he hopes to turn over two of the six U.S.-run battle positions to Iraqi forces soon. Seventeen already are in Iraqi hands. "It's great news," he said, but acknowledged that his area of operations is but one sliver in a vast country. "If the people to your left, your right, your north and your south can't say the same thing, it doesn't matter."

15) Polls show shift in attitudes on Iraq following military inroads http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/politics/5039588.html  By TOM RAUM Associated Press Aug. 9, 2007, 3:40AM WASHINGTON — Even some critics of President Bush's Iraq war policies are conceding there is evidence of recent improvements from a military standpoint. But Bush supporters and critics alike agree that these have not been matched by any noticeable progress on the political front. Despite U.S. pressure, Iraq's parliament went on vacation for a month after failing to pass either legislation to share the nation's oil wealth or to reconcile differences among the factions. And nearly all Sunni representatives in the government have quit, undermining the legitimacy of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite. Still, there have been signs of changes in attitudes, some on the ground in Iraq, some in the United States:
— Two critics of Bush's recent handling of Iraq, Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack, both of the Brookings Institution, penned an op-ed opinion piece in The New York Times suggesting after a visit that "we are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms." They recommended Congress sustain the current troop buildup "at least into 2008."
— Leading anti-war Democrat Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania predicted that U.S. commanders will begin drawing down troop levels early next year and that Congress can be more flexible in setting a fixed deadline for ending the U.S. occupation.
—    Polls suggest that Bush has had some degree of success in linking Islamic militants in Iraq with the al-Qaida terrorist movement."The administration is aggressively engaged in shifting (public) attitudes. And our side has been less aggressive than it needs to be," said Democratic pollster Celinda Lake. "The administration has been making inroads on their Iraqi argument, particularly linking it to terrorism."After sliding to just 28 percent in June, within range of an all-time low, Bush's job approval rating on handling Iraq rose slightly to 31 percent in July, according to AP-Ipsos polling. And a recent CBS/NYT poll showed an increase in the percentage of Americans who think the U.S. did the right thing in going to war with Iraq, up to 42 percent from 35 percent in May."I don't claim our recommendation to keep surging into 2008 is a no-brainer. That can be debated. But I think people's opinions need to catch up with the battlefield facts," O'Hanlon said in an interview.The op-ed piece he wrote with Pollack has been widely circulated by war supporters but denounced by many war critics. "As long as people start to get a sense that what's happening on the battlefield is different and better than what it was, then I feel like we've made our contribution," said O'Hanlon. O'Hanlon and Pollack supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq, but they have been sharply critical of the administration's handling of the aftermath. Like the Iraqi parliament, Congress has recessed for the rest of August, to return in September — when an eagerly awaited progress report on Iraq will be presented by Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq. What lawmakers hear from their constituents during the next month could do a lot to shape the Iraq debate ahead of receiving that report. Visiting Iraq, Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate, said Wednesday from Baghdad that American-led forces were "making some measurable progress, but it's slow going." "As our troops show some progress toward security, the government of this nation is moving in the opposite direction. This is really unsustainable with the American people," Durbin said in an interview with National Public Radio. House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said that Petraeus' plan was "producing good results. And the troops have achieved tactical momentum against al-Qaida. ...We're anxious to see what General Petraeus has to say in September. It will be a watershed moment in our efforts in Iraq." Petraeus asserted that "we are making progress. We have achieved tactical momentum in many areas, especially against al-Qaida Iraq, and to a lesser degree against the militia extremists." Still, he told Fox News on Tuesday that "there are innumerable challenges."
16) Date Processing Plant to Boost Iraqi Economy
http://www.defendamerica.mil/articles/aug2007/a080807tj1.html DefendAmerica: By 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Logistics Support Area AnacondaPublic Affairs U.S. soldiers help Iraqis open new business.  BABIL PROVINCE, Iraq, Aug. 9, 2007 — With the help of 3rd Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Iraqis in Babil Province were able to open the second date processing plant in the area, July 25. The opening was a success and many of the local leaders were there to witness it, including the Governor of Babil Province Salem Al-Mesalmawi, and Lt. Col. Michael A. Iacobucci, commander of 3rd Squadron."It's a means of employment and a source of wealth for the economy," said Iacobucci.This date processing plant is only the second to be opened in the entire area south of Baghdad. The project was originally started by 1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Regiment; the project was then transferred to 3rd Squadron."Our project was to build the date plant and have everything up and running so that the Iraqis can take over and run the plant," said 1st Lt. John Kil-Sung Chung, the civil military operations officer for 3rd Squadron.The processing plant has already brought numerous new jobs, but more importantly it will continue to bring wealth for the farmers in the surrounding area."This is going to give the economy a boost and jobs. This is an agricultural region. The idea of this is going to lift farmers' spirits and give them a reason to produce (more dates)," said Capt. Matthew Heitz, the effects coordinator for the 3rd Squadron. Because date season is approximately 45 days long, the project leaders are looking for other ways to use the plant."We have to find other uses for the plant so it's not just a one time show per year. We're trying to expand it and make it a more functional place," said Heitz.Although they have not found many uses for the processing plant yet, Iraqi leaders expect it to have a great effect on the community and the relationship between Americans and the Iraqis. "It ties and brings the U.S. and Iraqi government closer and gives a confidence boost to the Iraqi government," said Chung.During the building of the date plant, there were no security issues by possible insurgents in the area."There were no real challenges, no security issues, no threats whatsoever," said Chung.Although the date plant has not experienced any security issues, the Iraqi provincial leaders and 3rd Squadron leaders are taking a variety of security measures to ensure the date plant stays secure and open. One of the security measures was to put an Iraqi army checkpoint near the date plant.The total cost for the project was approximately $800,000 and took only a couple of months to complete. The money for the project came from the Commander's Emergency Relief Program and the contract for the building of the plant was given to the Hawks of Iraq contracting company and the Infrastructure Reconstruction Institute. "We have to follow through on contractual issues, equipment help and maintaining security by training the Iraqi forces," said Iacobucci. The plant is now in full operation and will continue to operate until the date season is over.
17) The Turn- Defeatists in retreat.
by William Kristol  08/13/2007, Volume 012, Issue 45 http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/013/950rsadr.asp?pg=1
Hot July brings cooling showers, / Apricots and gillyflowers, as Sara Coleridge's doggerel has it. But for the American antiwar movement, this July brought only a cold drizzle, wilted blossoms, and bitter fruit.For the Iraq war's opponents, July began as a month of hope. It ended in retreat. It began with Democratic unity in proclaiming the inevitability of American defeat. It ended with respected military analysts--Democrats, no less!--reporting that the situation on the ground had improved, and that the war might be winnable. It began with a plan for a series of votes in Congress that were supposed to stampede nervous Republicans against the continued prosecution of the war. It ended with the GOP spine stiffened, no antiwar legislation passed, and the Democratic Congress adjourning in disarray, with approval ratings lower than President Bush's. It began with Democratic presidential candidates competing in their antiwar pandering. It ended with them having second thoughts--with Barack Obama, losing ground to Hillary Clinton because he seemed naive about real world threats, frantically suggesting that he would invade Pakistan.July also began with the liberal media disparaging the troops. It ended with the liberal media in retreat. The New Republic had to acknowledge that its pseudonymous soldier's account of an incident purportedly showing the dehumanizing effects of the Iraq conflict was a lie: It had taken place in Kuwait (if it happened at all), before this imaginative private ever saw the horrors of war. The New York Times was so shocked to discover in late July that public opinion hadn't continued to move against the war that it redid a poll. The answer didn't change.This last incident, though minor, is revealing. On July 24 the Times reported that a new survey had found an increase in the number of Americans retrospectively backing the liberation of Iraq:Americans' support for the initial invasion of Iraq has risen somewhat as the White House has continued to ask the public to reserve judgment about the war until at least the fall. In a New York Times/CBS News poll conducted over the weekend, 42 percent of Americans said that looking back, taking military action in Iraq was the right thing to do, while 51 percent said the United States should have stayed out of Iraq. . . . Support for the invasion had been at an all-time low in May, when only 35 percent of Americans said the invasion of Iraq was the right thing and 61 percent said the United States should have stayed out.In the Times's view, as explained on its website, this result was "counterintuitive"--so much so that the editors had the poll repeated to see whether they had "gotten it right." Turns out they had.As the Wall Street Journal's James Taranto commented: "Well, two cheers for the paper's diligence, but this also seems to be about as close as we're going to get to an admission of bias: an acknowledgment that those at the Times are flummoxed that the public is not responding the way they expect to all the bad news they've been reporting."What's striking is that the Times was flummoxed. In the real world, the news from Iraq had been (relatively) good for a couple of months. General David Petraeus's military success had been followed with striking political achievements in Anbar province. At home, a mood of annoyance at the Bush administration's conduct of the war had started to yield to a realization that we were approaching a choice of paths on Iraq, and that the consequences of embracing defeat would be severe. But that's not the world the Times editors live in. In their world, this is a war that should never have been fought and that has long been irretrievably lost--and everyone should simply accept those settled facts.In the real world, the public is skeptical of the administration's stance on Iraq--but not overwhelmingly or irretrievably so. Here's what a new Rasmussen poll says: "Twenty-five percent of voters now say the troop surge is working and another 26 percent say it's too soon to tell. A month ago, just 19 percent considered the surge a success and 24 percent said it was too early to tell." This means that 51 percent are now at least open to giving the policy more time. That's up from 43 percent a month ago. Given the mistakes the Bush administration has made over the past four years, given the real challenges still ahead, given mainstream media bias in general and the lag in public understanding of what has happened in the last three months on the ground in Iraq in particular, these numbers aren't bad. And they're moving in the right direction. The public remains more sensible than much of elite opinion--and more open to new facts. That's good, since progress on the ground in Iraq is likely to continue. It can't be taken for granted, given the nature of a war against a ruthless and adaptable enemy. Still, one British general--no cheerleader for our conduct of the war in the past--told me in Baghdad last week, "It's getting better--and I don't see why it shouldn't continue to do so." And, despite the mainstream media, reports of that progress should continue to seep into the American public's consciousness. "This war is lost," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid stated without qualification a few months ago, adding that it required "blind hope, blind trust" to believe in progress of any sort. But Reid is now in the position of holding blindly to his embrace of defeat. He has to deny facts in order to sustain his bleak judgment.This denial will likely get more and more difficult. After all, civilian deaths in Baghdad are decreasing, and al Qaeda's networks and safe havens are being systematically disrupted. In Anbar, and now in Diyala, a bottom-up reconciliation is moving ahead as tribal sheikhs have turned against al Qaeda and are siding with American troops and Iraqi Security Forces. Ramadi, once among the most dangerous cities in Iraq, is now dramatically safer--our group walked through its downtown last week without body armor (though, of course, accompanied by several well-armed American soldiers).As Michael E. O'Hanlon and Kenneth M. Pollack put it in their New York Times op-ed on July 30,Viewed from Iraq, where we just spent eight days meeting with American and Iraqi military and civilian personnel, the political debate in Washington is surreal. Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms. As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration's miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily "victory" but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with. What's more, the public debate will move from a referendum on Bush's conduct of the war over the past four years to a discussion of the choices ahead, as Gen. Petraeus's testimony in September draws near. The public will finally have to consider seriously the implications of giving up on Iraq, as opposed to supporting the continued prosecution of a war we might well win. This debate should bring home to nervous Republicans in particular the truth that panicked abandonment of the war effort is the worst gambit available to them (to say nothing of the most dishonorable). Meanwhile, Democrats, who have been pandering to their antiwar base, will increasingly see that they have--as the third-ranking Democrat in the House, James Clyburn, acknowledged last week--"a problem." If Petraeus reports progress, Clyburn acknowledged, then "I think there would be enough support" among moderate Democrats "to want to stay the course, and if the Republicans were to stay united as they have been, then it would be a problem for us." So here is where we are: In terms of U.S. national interests--and in terms of its own political well-being--the Republican party faces a moment when, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, honor points the path of duty, and the right judgment of the facts reinforces the dictates of honor. General Petraeus will deliver the facts in September. If Republicans can keep their nerve under media and elite assault, then they will have the honor of following the path of both duty and the right judgment of the facts. I suspect all will come out well. Americans can sometimes be impatient and short-sighted. But when a choice is clearly presented, they tend to reject the path of defeat and dishonor.

19) 300 Iraqis network at business conference

03 August 2007 (PortAl Iraq) The 358th Civil Affairs Brigade sponsored a two-day conference that attracted 300 Iraqi businessmen at the Al-Rashid hotel in the International Zone.There were many objectives for this conference, said Col. Ronald Allen, special projects officer with the brigade. One was to inform the 300 prominent Baghdad businessmen of the proper way to bid on upcoming U.S. Government contracts that will total $5 billion. Another was to encourage those same attendees to hire local Iraqis."This conference is about employing Iraqis," Allen said. "It's not just another job fair. It's talking to the 300 large businesses within central Iraq and hooking them up with our contracting command so that they know how to compete for contracts. And we want to see Iraqis win those contracts and hire Iraqis."Presentations included a speech from the Col. Victoria Diego-Allard deputy commander of the Joint Contracting Command (JCC), who spoke about the Iraq First initiative, a $5 billion program in which Iraqi firms will be awarded contracts to rebuild Iraq, with the caveat that they hire their fellow countrymen, making her speech before a banner that displayed the phrase Construction, Not Destruction."Joint Contracting Command is committed to this program," Diego-Allard said in a press conference afterward. "We are reviewing all of our contracting opportunities to increase the number of vendors or opportunities for Iraqi vendors to do business with the Iraqi Government."Diego-Allard also took the opportunity to tell Iraqis about the contracting process, attempting to clear up misconceptions of corruption and explaining the firm-fix contracting method, which requires submitters to tell the JCC how much they would charge for a project and incorporates performance, potential and price intothe decision to award."The most prevalent problem is not understanding the bidding process," Diego-Allard said. "Not understanding the documentation, not understanding that all the requested information has to be addressed in the proposal by the contractor."Another aspect of the conference was to advertise the graduates of vocational-technical institutes. Allen and the 358th CA Bde. recently refurbished 23 technical schools with new equipment, air conditioning and other spruce-ups to attract students. It is estimated that 20,000 students will graduate with a trade skill by the end of the year. Many of these graduates will be military-age males."I just met one that hired 4,500 people," Allen said, referring to an Iraqi business leader. "If he gets a contract he's probably going to hire 6,000. I told him, you know if you do go up to 6,000, I need you to hire vocational grads. You don't have time to take people on and train them. Call the vocational school, find out when they're graduating."

20) US kills Al Qaeda golden dome bomber
http://www.breitbart.com/print.php?id=paAlQaida_Sun_18_Iraq_golden_dome_Nightlead&show_article=1&catnum=0 Aug 5 01:00 PM US/Eastern US troops have killed the al Qaida in Iraq mastermind of the bombing that destroyed the golden dome of a famed sacred Shiite shrine last year and set in motion an unrelenting cycle of sectarian bloodletting, the military have said.Haitham Sabah Shaker Mohammed al-Badri, the group's Salahuddin province emir, was killed in a US operation east of Samarra on Thursday, the military said.He also was responsible for the June 13 bombing that toppled the Askariya shrine's twin minarets, it said.Rear Admiral Mark Fox, a US military spokesman, said al-Badri had been among insurgents spotted by US aircraft moving into "tactical fighting positions"."From the surveillance that was going on, it looked like they were setting up an ambush," he told reporters in the heavily guarded Green Zone. "So they brought in rotary wing and close air support and there was some strafing that occurred from helicopters.""Al-Badri's body was positively identified by close associates and family members," Fox said.Another 80 suspected insurgents were detained in US and Iraqi raids in the Samarra area over the past week, the US military said in a statement.More than 1,000 Iraqi soldiers and police took part in the giant operation, backed by US paratroopers, it said.

21) Samara cleansed of terrorists and reconstruction projects to start
http://gatewaypundit.blogspot.com/2007/08/iraqis-celebrate-soccer-win-progress-in.html The governor of Salah Aldien province Hamed Hamood Al-Qaisi said (in an interview with radio Alsawa), ‘Security operations carried out in Samara have cleansed the city from armed terrorists. Normal life has returned to the city. Non Iraqi Arabs and Iraqi suspects have been arrested. The city was controlled by these armed terrorists and has been unstable for some time now. The security operation started from the center of the city and worked its way outwards.

Al-Qaisi mentioned the close coordination and cooperation of security forces between Baghdad and the provincial authorities. The earth wall erected around the city helped tremendously in restricting the movements of armed terrorists. Samara is now cleansed of armed terrorist. The cooperation and coordination between Baghdad and the provincial government was fantastic and exemplary. As was the cooperation and coordination between national security agencies, the Army and local police. We started by building an earth barrier and observation towers to surround the city of Samara. With only two controlled openings one in the south in the direction of Dheluiah and one in the north in the direction of Aldoor. The securety operation was lead by Iraqi forces with support form MNF (Multi National Forces) arrested a number of suspects, Iraqis and non Iraqis. Smiles have returned to the faces locals now that security has returned to Samara. We have cleansed the city from the terrorists who defiled its soil and killed the innocent. As to the difficulty the government is facing in securing the Samara Baghdad highway Al-Qaisi said, ‘We must place it under military security and observation pots should be places along it.’ Provincial Governer Al-Qaisi confirmed that life has returned to normal in Samara. Samara will soon witness the special attention the province will give it in rebuilding and improvements. The chief of provincial police of Salah Aldine added that normal life has returned to the city a few days after the wide spread security operation. Future operations will focuse on reconstruction and improvement. The ancient city of Samara is the home of the Askariah Shrines built in the late 900’s. The Shrines are a strong Shiite religious symbol. The first attack on the shrines in February of 2006 sparked the escalation in violence and pitched Shiite against Sunni. The aim of the terrorist who bombed the shrine was a full blown civil war. This of course did not happen. The calls for restraint from all Iraqi religious leaders helped calm the situation and averted large blood shed. A second attack happened in June of 2007 by Alqaida to again try to provoke Iraqis into civil war or large revenge killings. Again this failed. Thanks to calls for calm and restraint from all religious leaders and political figures. These high profile provocations by Alqida and the former Baathisst show the desperation of the terrorists. The now calm and control of Samara is a testament to the will of Iraqis to defeat the terrorist and rebuild their country. It is also shows the success of the surge which has now spread to areas north and east of Baghdad.
22) Al Qaeda is guilty of monstrosities in Iraq 
MICHAEL YON Sunday, August 5th 2007 Amid all this talk of timetables for the War in Iraq, blurred as they are by a strange lemming-like compulsion to declare the "surge" strategy a failure almost before it actually began, one deadline looms larger with each passing day: It's time for a reckoning with the truth. The problem is that almost none of those who have cast themselves as truth-tellers have the requisite credibility for the job. The one man who does was told he had only until September to evaluate progress. I'm not suggesting that I make a worthy substitute for the commanding general, David Petraeus, on this or any subject, but since December of 2004, I have spent roughly a 1½ years on the battlefields of Iraq. I've traveled alongside American Army and Marines and British forces, from Basra to Mosul and just about anywhere of note in between. When it comes to Iraq, being there matters because of the massive disconnect between what most Americans think they know about Iraq, and what is actually going on there. The current controversy about the extent to which Al Qaeda is a threat to peace in Iraq is a case in point. Questions about which group calling itself an offshoot of Al Qaeda is really an offshoot of Al Qaeda is a distraction masquerading as a debate. Al Qaeda is in Iraq, intentionally inflaming sectarian hostilities, deliberately pushing for full scale civil war. They do this by launching attacks against Shia, Sunni, Kurds and coalition forces. To ensure the attacks provoke counterattacks, they make them particularly gruesome. Five weeks ago, I came into a village near Baqubah with American and Iraqi soldiers. Al Qaeda had openly stated Baqubah was their worldwide headquarters — indeed, Al Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed just a short drive away. Behind the village was a palm grove. I stood there, amid the crushing stench of death, and photographed the remains of decapitated children and murdered adults. I can still smell the rotting corpses of those children.
Clearly, not every terrorist in Iraq is Al Qaeda, but it is Al Qaeda that has been intentionally, openly, brazenly trying to stoke a civil war. As Al Qaeda is now being chased out of regions it once held without serious challenge, their tactics are tinged with desperation. This may be the greatest miscalculation they've made in their otherwise sophisticated battle for the hearts and minds of locals, and it is one we must exploit. In fact, some Sunni insurgents who formerly were allies of Al Qaeda have turned on them simply because Al Qaeda has proven it will murder anyone — and in the most horrible ways. One of these groups is called the 1920 Revolution Brigade, which turned on Al Qaeda and joined forces with the U.S. On July 16, I was with American Army forces, Iraqi Army forces and 1920 fighters when together they went off to hunt Al Qaeda. The 1920s guys were in front of us. They got hit by a bomb that was almost certainly planted by terrorists. A major gunfight ensued. Anyone who says Al Qaeda is not one of the primary problems in Iraq is simply ignorant of the facts. I, like everyone else, will have to wait for September's report from Gen. Petraeus before making more definitive judgments. But I know for certain that three things are different in Iraq now from any other time I've seen it:
1. Iraqis are uniting across sectarian lines to drive Al Qaeda in all its disguises out of Iraq, and they are empowered by the success they are having, each one creating a ripple effect of active citizenship.
2. The Iraqi Army is much more capable now than it was in 2005. It is not ready to go it alone, but if we keep working, that day will come.

3. Gen. Petraeus is running the show. Petraeus may well prove to be to counterinsurgency warfare what Patton was to tank battles with Rommel, or what Churchill was to the Nazis. And yes, in case there is any room for question, Al Qaeda still is a serious problem in Iraq, one that can be defeated. Until we do, real and lasting security will elude both the Iraqis and us. Yon is a former Special Forces soldier who later became a writer and a photographer. His work appears in the Weekly Standard, the National Review and on www.michaelyon-online.com 
23) US kills key Iraq shrine bomber
US troops in Iraq say they have killed an al-Qaeda leader who masterminded the attacks on a Shia shrine that led to a major escalation in sectarian violence. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6931862.stm
Officials say Haitham al-Badri was behind the 2006 and 2007 attacks on the al-Askari shrine in Samarra, which destroyed its golden dome and minarets.Mr Badri's body has reportedly been identified by people close to him. The US claim came as mortar attacks killed at least 11 people in the eastern part of the capital, Baghdad. Mr Badri, said to be leader of al-Qaeda in Salahuddin Province, was killed on Thursday by US troops east of Samarra, US officials said. "It looked like they were setting up an ambush and so they [the troops] brought in rotary-wing close air support and there was some strafing that occurred from helicopters," US military spokesman Mark Fox said. He added that the dead man's body had been positively identified by "close associates and family members". Turning point The Iraqi government has always blamed Mr al-Badri for the February 2006 attack on the mosque, which is seen by many as a turning point in the sectarian violence, the BBC's Andy Gallacher reports from Baghdad. The mosque is one of the most sacred Shia sites in Iraq, and the attacks set off a wave of sectarian violence which claimed the lives of thousands of civilians. A second attack, in June 2007, saw its ancient minarets destroyed.
24) Wait, haul down the white flags - the surge in Iraq is working
http://news.enquirer.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070805/COL05/708050332/1009/EDIT BY PETER BRONSON
We're winning in Iraq. Ok, I said it. It's crazy. Stupid. Naïve. Hopelessly optimistic. And true.Something has changed, and the cut-and-run crowd in Congress did not get the memo. They insist the war is lost and we should get out yesterday. But the war has taken a turn for the better, like a patient making a sudden recovery after years on life support."Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms."That's not from a Bush loyalist. It's from two analysts at the liberal Brookings Institution, who say they have "harshly criticized the Bush administration's miserable handling of Iraq." After an eight-day tour of the war zone, they wrote a New York Times op-ed that had to give an extra-strength Maalox heartburn to Sen. Harry "this war is lost" Reid.In "A War We Just Might Win," Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack said they saw "a potential to produce not necessarily 'victory,' but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with."They said morale is high under Gen. David Petraeus; civilian fatalities are down by a third since the "surge' of 30,000 additional troops began in mid-June; former allies of al-Qaida have turned against the terrorists; Iraqi military and police units are reliable and effective.That good news was echoed by New York Times reporter John Burns on the Hugh Hewitt radio show. "I think there's no doubt that those extra 30,000 American troops are making a difference," Burns said. He warned that a retreat would "lead to much higher, and indeed potentially cataclysmic levels of violence, beyond anything we've seen to date.""And the question then arises, catastrophic as the effect on Iraq and the region would be, you know, what would be the effect on American credibility in the world, American power in the world, and America's sense of itself?"Michael Yon, a reporter embedded with Operation Arrowhead Ripper, says horrific cruelty by al-Qaida has driven Iraqis to our side. In one battle, he saw "unexpected and overwhelming cooperation of ordinary Iraqi citizens, who pointed out the enemy and many of the bombs set to ambush troops."
"I sense there has been a fundamental shift in Iraq," Yon wrote. "One officer called it a 'change in the seas,' and I believe his words were accurate. Something has changed. The change is fundamental, and for once seems positive."Success in Iraq could be one of those tectonic shifts that completely rearranges thlandscape:It's a San Francisco earthquake for politicians who prematurely waved the white flag. Rep. James Clyburn admitted as much, saying that for Democrats, good news "would be a really big problem for us, no question about that."Some in the antiwar left would rather see America lose than see Bush succeed. But most Americans won't forgive losers who tried to snatch defeat from the hands of success.Staunch supporters of the war and the troops, such as Sen. John McCain, would be vindicated. "Despite this progress," he said of the surge, "Democrats today advocate a precipitous withdrawal of American forces from Iraq. They are wrong, and their approach portends catastrophe for both Iraq and the United States. To fail in Iraq risks creating a sanctuary for al-Qaida, sparking a full scale civil war, genocide and violence that could spread far beyond Iraq's borders. ... We cannot and must not lose this war."President Bush's anemic popularity would improve. But even those of us who stuck by him wonder: What took so long? Why did it take four years to finally send Gen. "U.S. Grant" Petraeus to do the job right?Ironically, recent success underlines the previous failure of Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld - who begins to look like Bush's Gen. McClellan, whose incompetence was finally exposed by his replacement.The war is hardly over. Iraq's politicians are nearly as contemptible as our own. The media will bang on their bad-news drum all day. But Bush should grab a megaphone and tell America we're finally winning.About 3,600 soldiers have been killed in Iraq. Each one was someone's son, father, husband, brother or friend. Every one of them deserves better leadership."In a wider sense, the war is as most wars: an evolution from blunders to wisdom," says military historian Victor Davis Hanson. As in the Civil War, World War I and World War II, "the key is the support of a weary public for an ever improving military that must nevertheless endure a final storm before breaking the enemy." For all the soldiers and their families who believe in the mission, the hasty exodus of Iraq-war political deserters has been as chilling as winter at Valley Forge. But they said George Washington was crazy too.
25) Building on Steel   [W. Thomas Smith Jr.] http://tank.nationalreview.com/post/?q=ZDU4OGM1YWM2M2ExMGRkMmZiYTZjZmU3OTdjYWU3Njk=
BATTALION HEADQUARTERS AL QAIM — It's after 1:00 a.m., and I was asleep in my rack after watching "The Simpsons" movie with Lt. Col. Bohm and his officers in the battalion briefing room. Realizing that Internet access might not be nearly as touch-and-go at this time of night, I got back up, dressed, and dashed downstairs to fire off a quick dispatch. Outside there are a zillion visible stars (I love stars, have since I was a boy), and this is the clearest, starriest night I've ever seen in Iraq.Despite the ongoing war and what those on Capitol Hill might have us believe, there is progress in Iraq: Real measureable progress in Al Anbar that must be talked about. I had intended to wait and discuss the progress in Anbar, fleshing it out in detail in one of my NRO columns when I get back to the states (and I will), but it deserves talking about now. Here's why:Back in 2005, I wrote about an operation code-named Steel Curtain in which I said: Insurgencies are not put down in a fortnight. But considering the successes in the recent counter-insurgency sweep in Iraq's Al Anbar Province, one fact becomes obvious to anyone with so much as a sliver of an understanding of ground combat operations: Eliminating the insurgency in Iraq is best left to those who best know how to do it.Many on Capitol Hill seem more concerned about scoring points with their stateside constituencies than they are the Marines and soldiers who must battle the enemy on the ground. And make no mistake, the ground along the Euphrates River valley and up along the Syrian border has been the stage of an ongoing series of running gun-battles between insurgents and coalition troops for months.Therein lies the obvious: The troops on the ground, taking the fight to the enemy, are the ones who best know how to quash the insurgency. They are doing so systematically. The proof is in the results of their work (whether opponents of the war want to believe it or not), and the vast majority of those troops express no intention of abandoning that country with work to be done.Now, there is much more to the story of Steel Curtain — read the story — but what is important for us to understand today is that the success in this province, and what military experts say should be the model for the rest of Iraq is due in large part to the foundation built by Steel Curtain in November 2005. So it's not like we gained ground here, gave it up, and had to retake it as some might have their voting constituency believe. We've been building here, and standing on the shoulders of the Americans who have been killed and wounded since.Counterinsurgencies take time, long stretches of it (remember Britain's decade-plus long Malayan insurgency). And we are winning here no matter what naysayers want to say about what might be one's definition of winning. We are winning militarily here in Al Anbar: Defeating the enemy at every turn, denying him terrain, interdicting his lines of supply, collecting intelligence on his operations (which further allows us to connect the dots to other enemy operations worldwide), "winning the hearts and minds" of the good people of this province, and, yes, causing Iraqis in other provinces to look west for a model. How's that for a definition of winning? Much more to come on this.
26) Security improves in Ramadi Monday, August 6, 2007 ARLINGTON, Va. — Security conditions in the western Iraq city of Ramadi have improved so much since coalition forces wrested control from al-Qaida that 80 days have now passed without a single attack, according to Col. John Charlton, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team. Security has blossomed not only in the city, but in the entire 8,900 square-mile province of Anbar, of which Ramadi is the capitol, Charlton told Pentagon reporters Friday during a remote video briefing from his Ramadi headquarters.In February, the 6,000 U.S. servicemembers under Charlton’s command and the 12,000 Iraqi security forces were braving between 30 and 35 daily attacks from the organization known as al-Qaida in Iraq, which had declared Anbar, particularly Ramadi, as the center of its operations.Attacks now average one a day of fewer, Charlton said.Some weeks, there are no attacks throughout the province, Charlton said.

27) Marine unit commander wants to shed some gear
By Franklin Fisher, Stars and Stripes  http://stripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=55416&archive=true
Mideast edition, Saturday, August 4, 2007 sCOMBAT OUTPOST RAWAH, Iraq — The commander of a U.S. Marine Corps unit in Iraq wants to have his Marines begin patrolling without helmets and with less body armor. But the Marines would have the gear at their local patrol bases and could resume wearing it whenever needed, said Lt. Col. Kelly Alexander, commanding officer of Task Force Highlander, part of Regimental Combat Team-2, which operates in western Anbar province.The proposed changes apply to what is called PPE, or personal protective equipment.Alexander said a change to a “soft posture” can now be considered because the security situation has improved significantly in recent months. That is especially so in local cities where the Marines work closely with an ever-growing Iraqi police force and where residents have shown a newfound willingness to tip the police to insurgent activity.“In my opinion … things are good enough now that we can begin to institute a reduction in the PPE” in the task force’s area of operation, Alexander said in an interview this week.The task force, whose elements include the 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, is headquartered at Combat Outpost Rawah, near the Euphrates River.Alexander said he’s proposed to RCT-2 that the changes be made and that the regiment Tuesday night told him it would seek the OK from higher headquarters.Were the proposal to get the go-ahead, Marines patrolling the cities would first shed extra plates on their body armor.“So that’ll save us about 10 pounds,” he said.Besides the weight they add to a Marine’s overall load, some armor plates can be a bulky impediment to climbing in and out of light-armored vehicles, known as LAVs. Alexander said he has had plates catch occasionally in the cramped confines of the LAVs and that part of his gear was damaged as a result.“The [plates] will all remain with them, with their gear, so that if things do begin to ramp up, we just put it back on,” Alexander said.In the second phase of the change, Marines would switch from helmets to “soft cover” hats for patrols within the cities. The switch could help in the task force’s ongoing effort to foster good relations with the local populace, he said.“We’re going to transition — in the cities — to a soft cover,” Alexander said. “It’s less offensive, it’s less intrusive.”Like the unused body armor, helmets would be left at Marines’ patrol base.That’s in contrast to what British forces in Iraq have done in some instances, wearing soft headgear but also having their helmets with them on patrol.“Now the British do that, but we’re just going to go out with soft cover,” Alexander said.Thereafter, other parts of the body armor would be removed.“So that is in the making here in the upcoming month. … That is my proposal to the regiment,” Alexander said of RCT-2, headquartered at Al Asad Air Base.The proposed changes have a dual purpose: to “kind of lighten the load on our guys and … to project to the populace a less offensive mind-set,” he said.“I guess what it shows is, the indications are — both on the enemy side and on the side of the populace — things are good in Al Anbar province,” Alexander said.He said the insurgency remains active and capable of attacks. Regimental officials note that the insurgency has launched an offensive in western Anbar in each of the previous three summers.Accordingly, the Task Force Highlander and other RCT-2 elements are carrying out raids and other counterinsurgency operations in the area in a bid to make it harder for the insurgents to open a summer offensive.