Who are their bosses?
U.S. Unit Patrolling Baghdad Sees Flaws in Bush Strategy
By Sudarsan Raghavan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, January 12, 2007; A01
The day after his speech, the soldiers of Apache Company went on a mission to the volatile neighborhood of Hurriyah that underscored the challenges confronting U.S. troops as they attempt to clear neighborhoods of sectarian fighters and keep them that way under Iraqi control.
Across Baghdad, Iraq's mostly Shiite security forces have proved unable to keep neighborhoods secure on their own. Sunni Arabs deeply mistrust the army and police, viewing them as a sectarian weapon of the Shiite-led government. Iraqi army commanders say their soldiers lack training and equipment, while some U.S. officials worry that Iraq's troops are too dependent on their American counterparts and will become even more so with the expected surge.
The Stryker rolled through the mud of Camp Liberty and made its way to Hurriyah, a mostly Shiite area nestled west of the Tigris River. Apache Company's mission: to search a few houses for weapons caches based on intelligence reports. Caldwell and his soldiers worried about the intelligence they had been given. It had come from an Iraqi army -- or "IA," in U.S. soldier lingo -- officer a week ago. They wondered whether they were being set up for an ambush.
"It's a joke," said Pfc. Drew Merrell, 22, of Jefferson City, Mo., shaking his head and flashing a smile as the Stryker rolled through Baghdad.
"They feed us what they want," said Spec. Josh Lake, 26, of Ventura, Calif., referring to the intelligence. "I guarantee that everyone in the city knows where we're going. Because the IA told them. The only thing they don't know is how big a force we're coming with."
On this morning, 22 U.S. soldiers were in the Stryker convoy along with one Iraqi interpreter, whom the soldiers called Joey. He didn't want his real name used for security reasons.
"Pretty soon the Shiites will be tired of our presence, just like the Sunnis," said Lake, noting that the squad now makes almost daily trips to Hurriyah.
"The general feeling among us is we're not really doing anything here," Caldwell said. "We clear one neighborhood, then another one fires up. It's an ongoing battle. It never ends."
"We're constantly being told that it's not our fight. It is their fight," said Sgt. Jose Reynoso, 24, of Yuma, Ariz., speaking of the Iraqi army. "But that's not the case. Whenever we go and ask them for guys, they almost always say no, and we have to do the job ourselves."
"You do have corruption problems among the ranks," said Sgt. Justin Hill, 24, of Abilene Tex., the squad leader. "I don't know what they can do about that. They have militias inside them. They are pretty much everywhere."
"The intel they give us and the intel we get are two different things," Lake said.
Caldwell, as he listened to the conversation, leaned his head back and said:
"I want to go back and play my PlayStation."
posted by Steve @ 2:03:00 AM