Evidence ignored by Lugar and democrats
...Iraqi troops are also benefiting from working with the Americans. While the surge elements are still getting in place in other areas of the city it is preposterous to suggest as Lugar did that the surge has been a failure. that may go down as one of the more ridiculous statements made by a politician about the war and there is some pretty stiff competition from Democrats on that score. As Fred Barnes points out he is just flat wrong.
When this combat outpost, named Casino, was established in January, Ghazaliyah was a battleground. Shiite militias had pushed Sunnis from their homes in this predominantly Sunni neighborhood. That drove many Sunnis to al-Qaeda, concentrated in southern Ghazaliyah, for protection.
Streets were empty and stores closed. Gunfire crackled around the outpost each day. U.S. forces would find 15 bodies a day in the area, many of them victims of sectarian killings, said Joyce, of Garden City, N.Y.
"Now we have a bad day (when we) find one," Joyce said.
Casino was among the first such compounds built as part of a new strategy to move U.S. forces off large bases and into the neighborhoods to protect civilians.
Since Casino and a few other outposts were established, the U.S. military has created them at a furious pace. The American division responsible for Baghdad has set up about 68 outposts in the city of more than 6 million. Another 11 are planned.
The outposts were placed in some of the capital's most dangerous neighborhoods.
"We deliberately positioned those things … in the areas that they would make the biggest difference," said Brig. Gen. John Campbell, deputy commander of the U.S. division in Baghdad.
The outposts have made civilians safer but often have exposed American troops to more danger. In March, Company C, 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment lost four soldiers to a roadside bomb in Baghdad. They were the company's only fatalities since their deployment began in November.
In April and May, 230 U.S. troops were killed, making it the war's deadliest two-month period. This month, 76 U.S. troops have died.
Casino is a compound of nine homes surrounded by concrete blast walls. The soldiers moved into homes that were abandoned when fighting between Sunnis and Shiites intensified last year. The military pays rent to the owners.
Joyce's unit has about 115 soldiers in the compound. Sixty to 80 Iraqi soldiers live in separate quarters in the outpost. Iraqi and U.S. officers staff the command post.
There are no showers. Soldiers use portable outhouses, and one hot meal a day is trucked from a nearby base. U.S. soldiers stay here six days a week and return to the main base once a week to maintain vehicles, do laundry and rest.
The buildings are air-conditioned, but the generator that provides electricity sometimes breaks, leaving troops sweltering in temperatures of more than 100 degrees.
Daily life for soldiers is a cycle of patrols, guard duty, maintenance and a few hours of sleep. Sitting in his Humvee during a patrol one afternoon last week, Spc. Luke McMahan, 22, of Mountain View, Ark., said his day began at 3 a.m.
"We're going to be up until midnight," he said. "The best motivator we could get right now is showers."
Civilians are benefiting from the improved security.
On a recent late-night patrol, U.S. troops cruised past a well-lit ice cream parlor where clusters of Iraqis sat at outdoor tables eating and talking.
Across the street, a man fanned the coals on a sidewalk kebab stand, sending a shower of sparks into the night air. Clusters of men dressed in traditional dishdashas, or robes, strolled on the sidewalks.
The troops are building barricades around neighborhoods so residents have to come through Iraqi army checkpoints before entering.
U.S. soldiers also are collecting census data from those in every home. The goal is to keep outsiders from entering the neighborhood.
During a recent patrol, Iraqi and American Humvees rolled down a street in the midday sun.
A small group of U.S. soldiers went to each house on the block, getting data from residents inside walled courtyards. On the street, children clustered around soldiers.
Sgt. Sergej Michaud, 24, of Caribou, Maine, handed out cereal and muffins from the back of a Humvee. Children ran to him with outstretched arms.
"If we were doing this (last) February, we'd be getting shot at," he said. A small boy brought the U.S. soldiers a stack of steaming flatbread made in a backyard oven.
"Kids are not afraid of us anymore," said McMahan as he took photos of children clustered outside his Humvee.