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Old 02-18-2006   #1
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Default Troops Honed in '03 Fighting a Different War in Iraq

18 Feb Washington Post - Troops Honed in '03 Fighting a Different War in Iraq by Tom Ricks.

...In many respects, the war in Iraq in 2006 isn't the same as the one that was being fought in 2003-04, when the insurgency was emerging and taking U.S. commanders by surprise. No one in the U.S. military may understand the changes better than troops who were part of the initial occupation and have returned for a second tour -- and are being trained to be less quick on the trigger and more ready to give Iraqis the benefit of the doubt...

Some soldiers' comments seem to reflect a growing sense that the U.S. military committed several major errors in 2003-04, when it lacked cultural understanding and tended to use force as the tool of first resort. "The first time we were here, there was a lot of overreacting," said Staff Sgt. Jesse Sample. "Now, with experience, we react a lot more calmly." Like all the other soldiers interviewed for this article, Sample is a member of the U.S. Army's 4th Infantry Division, which was headquartered in Tikrit in 2003-04 and is now based in Baghdad...

Even shooting has changed. Of more than a dozen soldiers asked to compare their first and second tours of duty, all agreed that the rules of engagement that govern the use of force have grown much tighter, and most said they thought the new restrictions were for the good. "It's a little bit harder. You're kind of tied down," said Ilaoa. Even so, he said, "we treat locals a lot better and have a lot better relations with them."...
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