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U.S. poised to let Iraqis take lead
From July 1, U.S. troops still in Baghdad cannot be on the streets during the day unless on a mission or task requested and led by Iraqi Security Forces, said Maj. Shannon Nielson, the operations officer for the “1-5.” Essential tasks, such as resupplying convoys, will only be done under cover of darkness, he said.
When not patrolling, U.S. troops have been training their Iraqi partners in everything from battlefield first aid to vehicle repair.
“They’ve gone through basic training, but for a lot of them, it was a rushed course,” said First Sgt. Anthony Rives, who taught a weapons class.
Sgt. Rives said he doubted all 14 Iraqi students would remember what was taught. But, he said, “if two or three do and use it, then it’s worthwhile.”
There are still about 130,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. About 24,000 in Baghdad have been physically affected by the transition: They have moved to facilities outside city limits, such as JSS (Joint Security Station) Istiqlal, JSS War Eagle, JSS Uhr and the super-sized Camp Taji.
FOB Shield, the current headquarters of the “1-5,” is not closing. A multinational installation, it also houses Danish police trainers, some British forces and Iraqis.
Other bases are now only footnotes in U.S. military and Iraqi history.
The stepped gardens in Adhamiyah, where in 2003 wounded Marines from the 1st Battalion, 5th Regimental Combat Team were placed to await evacuation, are now a parking lot. The broad steps where Capt. Shawn Basco, a forward air controller, sang “Happy Birthday” to himself while directing A-10 Warthogs to lay down suppressing fire, are gone.
“Where’s my cake?” he had laughed. He got a piece of shrapnel in his ankle instead.
The paved small, open area between the steps and the garden — where the body of Gunnery Sgt. Jeffrey Bohr was gently placed and stripped of his body armor — is now dirt and pebbles.
Despite all the progress since 2003, “the mood in the area is definitely more tense,” Staff Sgt. Matthew St. Pierre, of the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, said of northeastern Baghdad. Last week’s bombings are “kind of hitting home that the transition is going to be harder than we anticipated.”
• Daniel W. Smith in Baghdad and Eli Lake in Washington contributed to this report.
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By Mangosuthu Buthelezi
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