Washington Post: Iraqi Forces Show Signs Of Progress In Offensive

Good article in the WAPO today, showing progress in the training of Iraqi forces to "handle their own"

"TALL AFAR, Iraq -- The Iraqi soldiers had already searched the house, according to a sticker plastered across its front gate.

But when their commanding general and a U.S. colonel arrived one afternoon last week to praise their performance and observe them in action, the troops wanted to give a demonstration. With theatrical intensity, they charged the two-story structure on the nearly deserted block, rifles at the ready, while other soldiers and two reporters watched from the street.

A fiery explosion -- some soldiers said they saw a man throw a grenade, others said the door was rigged to blow -- erupted from inside, followed by bursts of gunfire. The shouting soldiers stumbled out through a cloud of smoke, covered in blood. The rest of the platoon, which had lost a lieutenant in a grenade attack the day before, appeared dejected, some huddling around the wounded, others sitting with their heads in their hands.

What happened next, commanders here said, suggested significant progress toward the goal of shifting security functions to Iraqi forces so that the United States can begin withdrawing troops from Iraq. When the clashes grew intense, the Iraqi soldiers did not shrink, American officers said.

"Okay, men, it's time to buck up and show our mettle," said a U.S. Special Forces soldier, acting as platoon commander, who allowed reporters to accompany the patrol on the condition that he not be named. "We can't let this stop us. We need payback!"

They went looking for revenge. When they were ambushed again, in a home one block away, they were ready. After a firefight, they came out smiling proudly, with several raising two fingers to indicate the number of insurgents killed.

"A couple of months ago, they might not have been able to pull it together after something like that," said Col. H.R. McMaster, commander of the U.S. Army's 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, who witnessed the abortive raid and helped bandage an Iraqi soldier whose wounded hand was pouring blood onto the sidewalk. "They showed a lot of resolve. Eventually, they will be able to control this city."

There is absolutely no doubt that this is our number one priority. We have to get Iraqi's to police their own and rid their country of those who don't belong, i.e.; insurgents.

It isn't easy to build a force. You can equip them with uniforms, weapons, training and support, but one thing you can't "buy", you can't "issue" is Esprit-de-Corp.

Back in the day when I trained soldier's there was no better feeling than when you saw it in their eyes - and you knew that "They've got it!" On that day, they became soldiers.

This is why we cannot leave them until their training is completed. To do so would be almost criminal. We are seeing definite progress and real signs that the Iraqi forces themselves are begining to "feel it". In today's venacular, "They are getting it", but they haven't "got it" yet.

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