Field Report

Field Report #1:

Greyhawk said he wanted to hear some reports. I've said below that the violence is a shadow of what it was a year ago. About this time last year, AQI cells south of Baghdad were attacking checkpoints with technicals (i.e., a civilian truck with a heavy weapon mounted on it, DSHK-type machineguns in this case). They crashed one and burned the town of Hawr Rajab, in retaliation for their loss in a 24-hour battle with the then-new Sons of Iraq movement in that area. Arab Jabour was Indian country. All that is gone.

A year ago, we were setting up new combat outposts in division-level operations, led by hardened US combat forces. Today, we're handing over those outposts to Iraqi units, who are not just 'in the lead' but doing the heavy lifting in many places.

Back in September, I talked with Colonel Caraccilo, commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne. His brigade had replaced 2/0 MTN when it came to Iraq. Later, 2/3 HBCT left, and 3/101 assumed their battlespace as well as what they held from 2/10. He told me that his brigade was leaving soon, and would be replaced only by a transition team of about 1,000 soldiers: a battalion-sized element, replacing what had been the territory of two brigades only a year before.

The Order of Battle is a little hard to discern from over there, but I can tell you that is just what happened. Now the real force in the area is the Iraqi Army, with the transition team advising and assisting. 3/101 AASLT did its RIP/TOA with the 17th Iraqi Army -- not a US unit.

My job over here is to coordinate between our Human Terrain Team and the civil-military operations and information operations teams. My focus is on helping the military to engage the tribes and tribal culture, a task made far, far easier by the extraordinary legacy left to me by the soldiers of the 2/10 and 3/101. They took the job seriously when they were here, which makes it easy for us today. The others here currently also take it seriously -- the Army understands it is the real work of the COIN effort, and has made arrangements. We have Arabists and translators, social scientists and historians to back up the soldiers and officers of the remaining American forces.

Is it worth it? The Dora district in Baghdad held an art festival this week.

A bare foot, visible only to the ankle, ascends into a black abyss as a bright yellow comet passes overhead.

The darkness in the painting represents the life that Saddam Hussein stole from Iraq and the comet the hope of peace that U.S. forces brought, says artist Farouk F. Rafeik.

Rafeik’s work is part of something unthinkable one year ago: an art show in Baghdad’s Dora neighborhood, once one of the most violent enclaves in Iraq.
We've heard a lot of things about this war and what its legacy will be: but plainly, we haven't yet heard everything there is to hear.

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