The U.S. military drive to train and equip Iraq's security forces has unwittingly strengthened anti-American Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia, which has been battling to take over much of the capital city as American forces are trying to secure it.
U.S. Army commanders and enlisted men who are patrolling east Baghdad, which is home to more than half the city's population and the front line of al-Sadr's campaign to drive rival Sunni Muslims from their homes and neighborhoods, said al-Sadr's militias had heavily infiltrated the Iraqi police and army units that they've trained and armed.
"Half of them are JAM. They'll wave at us during the day and shoot at us during the night," said 1st Lt. Dan Quinn, a platoon leader in the Army's 1st Infantry Division, using the initials of the militia's Arabic name, Jaish al Mahdi. "People (in America) think it's bad, but that we control the city. That's not the way it is. They control it, and they let us drive around. It's hostile territory."
The Bush administration's plan to secure Baghdad rests on a "surge" of some 17,000 more U.S. troops to the city, many of whom will operate from small bases throughout Baghdad. Those soldiers will work to improve Iraqi security units so that American forces can hand over control of the area and withdraw to the outskirts of the city.
The problem, many soldiers said, is that the approach has been tried before and resulted only in strengthening al-Sadr and his militia.
Thursday, February 01, 2007
You know, when I read this sort of thing I think that the US military, in all its bloat, should be taking military lessons from Arab and Persian fighters. They seem to be the real masters at turning your enemy's supposed strength into your own strength. For all the US debate about the "surge" and about numbers of troops (once again, stupid numbers), the Mahdi Army simply says "bring it on." If it weren't so murderously tragic, this war could be called "The Dumb War."