Ray of hope
Iraq’s only hope for stability may be its fledgling army. While the police force appears hopelessly infiltrated by sectarian killers, the army shows promise. Some of its units stand and fight. Some of its leaders talk of defending Iraq’s struggling democracy.
A firefight in December in the city of Baqouba reinforces that hope. We hear that Iraqi soldiers fought well in a nighttime battle against al Qaeda terrorists. Diyala province is one of Iraq’s most violent, as Shi’ites and Sunnis try to top each other in torture and slaughter, as al Qaeda conducts suicide bombings.
What is actually happening in the provincial capital is the subject of debate. The U.S. military says the city and province are functioning. Reporters say their Iraqi sources in Diyala tell of rampant violence and citizens too afraid to leave their homes.
The Maryland-size Diyala is home to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, which arrived from Fort Hood seven weeks ago. It patrols with Iraq’s 5th Army Division.
Col. Dave Sutherland, the brigade’s commander, talked to the Pentagon press corps in December.
“Many recent reports have made it seem that Diyala is a haven for terrorism, one so violent that people are afraid to go out of their homes. The reality is something different,” he said.
Then he provided a sober assessment: “Some political groups and tribal leaders are turning to terrorists and insurgent organizations for protection. This sort of unity only worsens the sectarian divide and encourages further vi- olence. The key to security is separating the insurgents from the terrorists, and bringing the insurgents into the political process while defeating the terrorists with intelligence-driven operations.”