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Friday, November 10, 2006

We're losing in Iraq

Fallujah, Ramadi, Tal Afar

Two years after U.S. assault on it, Fallujah returns to insurgent hands
Jay Price and Mohammed Al Dulaimy, McClatchy News Service

Last update: November 08, 2006 – 8:41 PM

FALLUJAH, IRAQ - When insurgents hid a bomb in front of his house a few days ago, intending to use it against U.S. or Iraqi troops, Majeed al-Rawi had only one option: Move out.

"If I report it to the Americans, I will be killed by the men who put it there, and if I don't, my family will be killed either by the explosion or the Americans," the car dealer said. "This is not a way to live; this is a way to hate life."

Two years after U.S. troops launched a devastating ground assault that purged, at least temporarily, the heart of the Iraqi insurgency, Fallujah once again is a violent place.

In recent months, insurgents have filtered back into the city, despite tight controls that limit access to only six checkpoints. Residents must submit to an extraordinary identification system that includes fingerprinting, retina scans and bar-coded identification cards.

An insurgent intimidation campaign has killed two City Council members and at least 30 police officers.

The campaign has been so effective that police patrols have all but stopped, as officers fear to walk the streets.

The number of shootings, bombings and bombs found and defused has doubled since last winter, to about four or five a day, U.S. officers say. There have been about half a dozen car bombings in recent weeks.

Residents and police alike complain bitterly that after two years security is eroding in what had been a U.S. success story.

"Bush didn't give us democracy, he gave us more new ways to be killed," Al-Rawi said. "I think there is no future anymore. I believe the only future is to leave this country. "We can win the war, but for now Al-Qaida has won in Fallujah," said a police officer who didn't want his name used for security reasons. "They made the police force stop patrolling streets, and that's a victory."

Because insurgents target them at home, many officers are living in the police stations. Others simply quit.

"What was I going to wait for that would keep me on the force?" said Muhammad Humadi, a captain who quit in August after one of his commanders was beheaded. "Nothing was going to get any better. I have children, and if I were to sacrifice myself it wouldn't change anything."

With more Americans expressing support for different policies in Iraq, Fallujah offers a lesson in frustration.

Until this August, Fallujah was relatively peaceful, at least by Iraqi standards. But then U.S. forces stepped up a campaign against insurgents in nearby Ramadi and added troops in Baghdad in an effort to quell growing violence there. Some military officers here think that pushed insurgents to Fallujah.

By mid-August, insurgent threats against and assassinations of police officers got so bad that half the police force stayed home for several days. Many quit or moved into their stations.

U.S. and Iraqi troops have nowhere near the manpower needed to take up the slack, said Lt. Col. James Teeples, the senior adviser to the Iraqi Army unit responsible for much of the city.

"We just don't have the manpower to maintain surveillance on the entire city," Teeples said.

posted by Steve @ 1:34:00 AM

1:34:00 AM

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