The news coming from US Headquarters in Baghdad has been interesting but not very inspirational.
There is a major (for Iraq) operation ongoing in the Tel Afar area of far north western Iraq in which the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment (a 5,000 man armored brigade really) is engaged with most of its deployable troops alongside a 5,000 man Iraqi military force.
They are doing what seemed likely a few weeks ago. They are trying to break up guerrilla redoubt or base areas along the Syrian border. The marines were working at that in the al-Qa’im/Haditha area along the Euphrates River a while back, and it was clear then that this would have to be done all along the border to prevent the enemy from consolidating control in such a way that the coalition could only enter the area in such strength as to be crippling elsewhere from thinning out forces.
So, that’s what they are doing. The key thing to watch for here is whether or not the Iraqi forces are mature enough to maintain themselves in a city sympathetic to the insurgents after American forces are, of necessity, moved away. The small size of the American force in Iraq makes it inevitable that much of the 3rd ACR will depart after the operation ends. Then, we will see if the Iraqis can "hack it" in a tough place.
Unfortunately, it appears that the Iraqi troops at Tel Afar are mostly Kurdish. The Sunni and Shia Turkmen inhabitants of Tel Afar do not look upon Kurds with sympahty, and the use of such troops in a Turkmen city will be watched carefully by the Turkish General Staff in Ankara.
In the meantime we have the spectacle of a US Army general officer in Baghdad announcing once again that the insurgencies are on their last legs. 160 dead in one day. Some legs! You have to wonder if the people who make asinine statements like this realize how foolish and servile they make themselves in the eyes of ordinary people. I don’t think they are really stupid so I will opine that they are just so conditioned to the "can do" spirit expected of "team players" that they can’t help themselves.
I hope this works out for them. They can take the transcripts of their statements in with them the next time they go to be interviewd by Rumsfeld for a job.
Incidentally, the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment was founded in the 1840s as a force of mounted infantry (not dragoons) needed to patrol the Oregon Trail. They were designed at that time to travel mounted and fight dismounted and they carried long, infantry rifles. In Mexico, General Scott watched them march into Mexico City and cried out "Brave Rifles. You have been baptised in fire and have come out steel." "Brave Rifles" has been the regimental motto ever since. God bless them.