Little Green Footballs

Friday, September 02, 2005

Remember Fallujah?

Remember how the rightwing blogsphere frothed at the mouth while all their military and violent fantasies seemed to come true when the US Army virtually flattened the area? Remember how that was such a good tactic? It seems the insurgents remember it too. And they're back.

FALLUJAH, Iraq -- The insurgents are back in Fallujah.

Last week, Ali Hassan, a 23-year-old soldier from Baghdad, was careful to wear civilian clothes and leave his gun behind when he went for a haircut, but it didn't help. Three extremists found him in the Fallujah barbershop and put a bullet through his head.

No one knows how many terrorists have returned to what was once their most formidable stronghold. They increase with the population, which now stands at about 130,000 -- half of what it was before a massive U.S. offensive in November.

After five months of relative quiet, U.S. forces training Iraqi soldiers in Fallujah say the pace of attacks is increasing, but it is not clear whether this is the beginning of a new crisis or a last-ditch effort to derail security before the October constitutional referendum.

U.S. commanders say the attacks are uncoordinated and often ineffective, suggesting the insurgent leadership that was once here has been disrupted. If the political leaders in Baghdad get their act together, they think, the terrorists will not be able to regain the power they once had.

That is cold comfort for the Iraqi soldiers, who fear for their safety not just on the streets of Fallujah but when going on leave every month. Three or four soldiers in the 2nd Battalion have been killed while traveling home to Baghdad for their one week of leave every month.

The generous time off is necessary to allow soldiers to take home their pay -- about $300, roughly 2 times the national average income -- as there is still not a functioning banking system.

They used to be transported by armed convoy, but the U.S. military does not have the forces to spare for the eight-hour round trip.

"This is their show," said Marine Capt. Todd Sudmeyer, 35, referring to the Iraqi brigade and Ministry of Defense. Sending out two Humvees to protect a convoy would absorb half his combat power.

The Iraqi soldiers often just flag cabs, in civilian clothes and without their weapons, and hope for the best. On back roads, however, they sometimes run into insurgent checkpoints and some are killed.
Hope for the best? Seems like the new Iraqi army is adopting George W. Bush's only strategy.

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