There aren’t many mentions of Najaf in headlines these days. That’s a good thing: The city’s security situation is vastly improved, and so Najaf is less interesting to the media.
Najaf topped headlines in mid-2004, when the Shi’ite holy city suffered protracted battles between coalition forces and Moqtada al Sadr’s al-Mahdi Army, whose uprising centered upon Najaf. These days, U.S. forces are 40 minutes outside the city because of improved security, something President Bush highlighted before the Council on Foreign Relations last week.
As Brig. Gen. Augustus L. Collins, head of the 155th Brigade Combat Team responsible for security in Babil, Karbala and Najaf provinces, told reporters via satellite on Friday: “Actually, the attacks that we have now compared to attacks we had when we first got here and took over our battlespace in February are at least down by 50 percent,” he said. Gen. Collins reports that his men have captured 1,500 insurgents and confiscated 2,800 weapons.
For decades, the predominantly Shi’ite city was terrorized by Saddam Hussein’s thugs. Then, after the war, it was the site of protracted battles. Now Najaf has an elected government and political campaigns.