Progress in Iraq
Operation Moonlight, the first brigade sized operation in Western Anbar province ends. While the tangible results are minimal, a single weapons cache was uncovered, the fact the operation was entirely driven by the Iraqi brigade, from intelligence, planning, manpower, to execution, is significant. America's Son, a blogger and Marine Military Policeman who worked with the Iraqi soldiers, offers a first hand account of the operation and high praise of to the Iraqi troops, using his own training experiences:
On the eve of my indoc (try-out) for the Military Police Special Reaction Team, the team's chief, a Gunnery Sergeant whom I respect greatly, told us that he could teach tactics to a monkey, but something that he couldn't teach anybody was how to have heart and determination and how to keep your body going when your mind tells it to quit. I will never forget his words..."Gents, you've either got it, or you don't", the Gunny told us bluntly. "And starting tomorrow, my job is to see who has it, and wave bye-bye to those who don't. Your mind will give up long before your body will." I did not see a single soldier during the operation who didn't have "it". They caused me to dig a bit deeper as we went tromping along across the desert.
In Arabba, a region in Diyala province, Iraqi troops are asserting greater control and taking the initiative. The Iraqi troops have received their fifth battalion, and are challenging the local leaders to stamp out the insurgency. "Control your towns or we will. If you don't, we're going to do some things in your towns that we don't want to do," Col. Saman Talabani, the brigade commander.
In Samarra, a city once ripe for a Tal Afar styled assault, the 101st Airborne division is now assuming control from the 3rd Infantry Division's 3-69th Armor Battalion. Lt. Col. Mark Wald, Battalion commander of the 3-69 Armor states the situation has improved dramatically since their arrival last winter; "We have the enemy activity down to such a significantly low level that we can now transition Iraqi Security Forces currently in our area of operation to take the lead where coalition forces are now in support." Sgt. Steven Narron, speaks highly of the Iraqi troops in the area; "I have seen the discipline level of the Iraqi Army, the Iraqi Police and the Ministry of the Interior go up a whole lot since we've been here, the equipment they have and the soldiers they are getting have really improved." Soldiers of the 101st have also uncovered a massive weapons cache, including rockets and missiles wrapped in plastic.
While the Iraqi Army assumes a greater role in security, reconstruction efforts continue country wide. Mosul, Tal Afar and Sadr City in Baghdad. Margaret Friedenauer of the Fairbanks News-Miner is embedded with the 172nd Stryker Brigade in Mosul, and says "Everything I thought I knew [about Iraq and how American troops operated] was wrong." Read the entire post. She gathered her information through the media, and believed the conventional spin of failure and despair. Ms. Friedenauer now sees a different story.