View Full Version : Mistrust as Iraqi Troops Encounter New U.S. Allies

07-16-2007, 09:44 AM
Mistrust as Iraqi Troops Encounter New U.S. Allies (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/16/world/middleeast/16reconcile.html?hp=&pagewanted=print)- NYTIMES, 16 July.

Abu Azzam says the 2,300 men in his movement include members of fierce Sunni groups like the 1920s Revolutionary Brigade and the Mujahedeen Army that have fought the American occupation. Now his men patrol alongside the Americans, who want to turn them into a security force that can bring peace to this stretch between Baghdad and Falluja.

A few miles away, in the town of Abu Ghraib, Brig. Gen. Nassir al-Hiti and his brigade of Iraqi Army soldiers also have the support of the American military. But they have a different ambition, some American commanders here say: doing everything they can to undermine Abu Azzam’s men, even using a stolen membership list to single them out for wrongful detention ...

About a month ago, the Iraqi brigade, which is predominantly Shiite, was assigned a new area and instructed to stay away from Nasr Wa Salam, Colonel Pinkerton said. But he said he believed that the Iraqi soldiers remain intent on preventing Sunni Arabs, a majority here, from controlling the area. He cites a pattern of aggression by Iraqi troops toward Abu Azzam’s men and other Sunnis, who he believes are often detained for no reason.

Recently, and without warning, Colonel Pinkerton said, 80 Iraqi soldiers in armored vehicles charged out of their sector toward Nasr Wa Salam but were blocked by an American platoon. The Iraqis refused to say where they were going and threatened to drive right through the American soldiers, whom they greatly outnumbered.

Eventually, with Apache helicopter gunships circling overhead and American gunners aiming their weapons at them, the Iraqi soldiers retreated. “It hasn’t come to firing bullets yet,” Colonel Pinkerton said ...

Colonel Pinkerton’s experiences here, he said, have inverted the usual American instincts born of years of hard fighting against Sunni insurgents.
“I could stand among 1,800 Sunnis in Abu Ghraib,” he said, “and feel more comfortable than standing in a formation of Iraqi soldiers ...”

A watershed of sorts came in late April. After a Muthanna Brigade checkpoint was attacked by gunmen, 50 Iraqi soldiers stormed a schoolhouse then serving as Abu Azzam’s makeshift headquarters, arresting dozens of men and shoving some into the trunks of Humvees. Enraged Sunnis who live nearby charged to the scene.

An American officer, Capt. Larry Obst, arrived with 10 soldiers just as a riot threatened to break out, with more than 500 people bearing down on the Iraqi soldiers, who were “getting ready to shoot into the crowd,” he said. After hours of frantic American intervention, the Iraqi soldiers left without the detainees.

The episode hardened the mistrust between the American and Iraqi units, he said, “but it built credibility with the people.”

Yet the men in Colonel Pinkerton’s unit, the Second Battalion of the Fifth Cavalry Regiment, remain conflicted about the risks of joining forces with men who may have attacked them before. Master Sgt. Carlos Figueroa says some Volunteers remind him of drug dealers who try to go straight but always hedge their bets. “These guys are never going to completely give up these ties,” he said ...

Superb article worth reading in full.

Nat Wilcox
07-16-2007, 11:22 AM
Superb article worth reading in full.

Thanks for posting this; I second your recommendation. It remind me of that expression "like trying to herd cats."