Haditha Mayor Asks Marines Not to Leave

Recently, the Mayor of Haditha, Abdul Hakim M. Rasheed , had asked the Marines there not to leave.

The Mayor stated: "The people of Germany and Japan would not have made progress without the Americans," Mayor Abdul Hakim M. Rasheed told the U.S. Marine officers who recently came to his heavily guarded home. "The people of Iraq deserve the same."

The Marines, including three generals, assured Rasheed that they had no plans to abandon him and his city. Don't be distracted by the political debate in Washington, they urged Rasheed, who listened and nodded.

Since 2004, Iraq's western al-Anbar province -- the center of the Sunni-led insurgency -- has been the most dangerous part of the country for U.S. forces. But Marines here have been experiencing a respite in recent weeks. Attacks against Marines and soldiers are at their lowest point in four years.

In the six weeks since his battalion arrived, Lt. Col. James Bierman, commanding officer of the 1st regiment, 3rd infantry, has seen only five of his troops wounded and none killed; the battalion that preceded his suffered 24 killed and 230 wounded in seven months.

As Marine commanders reassure Rasheed and others that they will not be abandoned again, their strategy can be described as "more": more engagement with tribal sheiks, more efforts to train Iraqi security forces, more troops, more patrols to find and rout members of al-Qaida in Iraqi and other insurgent groups, and more positioning of Marines amid the civilian populace. In case fighting spreads along the Euphrates, a Navy river patrol squadron has been moved to the area.

Marine commanders say their success in reducing insurgent violence in Haditha and other areas of al-Anbar is an indication that a "surge" of troops, like that being tried by the Army in Baghdad, can succeed. But they note that a surge is a beginning, not an end.

Talk Show America 5/14/2007

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