A triangle of death no more

AP/Washington Post:

When the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division arrived in Iraq's once infamous "Triangle of Death," violence there and in neighboring Baghdad was so intense that hundreds were dying every day and the country was virtually in a state of civil war.

Now as the division heads home at the end of May, the region stretching south from Baghdad and across central Iraq has become a showcase for what the U.S. military hoped to achieve in Iraq.

"When we first arrived here 15 months ago there was nothing but sectarian violence, al-Qaida, Shiite extremists," the division commander Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch said as he wrapped up a tour of an industrial complex.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and U.S. officials are likely to tout successes like that here during a U.N. conference that begins Thursday in Sweden, aimed at reviewing political and security progress in Iraq. The gathering will also see pressure on Iraqi leaders to make similar movement on political goals, such as reconciliation between the country's Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds.

The U.S. military says violence across Iraq has reached its lowest level in more than four years after successes this year in breaking al-Qaida's and other Sunni insurgents' hold in western Iraq and _ more recently _ government crackdowns in the southern city of Basra and northern city of Mosul.

But the success in the Triangle of Death, centered on the town of Iskandariyah, is perhaps the most dramatic. The area's population is mixed between Sunnis and Shiites to a far greater degree than many others, and in 2006 and 2007 militants from each community were killing each other, as well as attacking U.S. and Iraqi forces.

The area has boomeranged to become a bastion of relative peace on the edge of a violent capital, while Sunni militants remain elusive in the north.

...

Gen. Lynch and his troops did a good job of turning things around in their area. Lynch also turned things around with the media, correcting misimpressions and challenging the enemy memes that were being accepted by the media. There operation is an example of the success of the surge.

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