|The joint patrols search for IEDs and
At the heart of Bush’s policies in Iraq has been the aim of training Iraqi forces to take over from US troops.
However, while accompanying a joint US-Iraqi patrol in Baghdad, Al Jazeera’s David Chater finds there are doubts about when they can fully take over security.
The quality and training of the new Iraqi army were crucial parts of the assessment by David Petraeus, the top US commander in Iraq, on the military situation in the nation.
These are plans which George Bush, the US president, looks set to fully endorse in Washington DC.
Iraqi units are now mounting joint patrols with the Americans in Baghdad. The mission is to set up random checkpoints in the city, searching for IEDs (improvised explosive devices) and smuggled weapons.
“They’re one of the best checkpoints and some of the most disciplined soldiers that we have out here,” Lieutenant Dan Brown told Al Jazeera.
“We like to work with them to show our influence and care in their situation out here.”
Taking the strain
“Iraq is still under foreign occupation and Iraqis continue to die in great numbers”
The patrols do seem to be having some effect; for example, the number of suicide car bombings in the capital has declined noticeably.
“They seem to be a lot more involved. They understand more their purpose and what it is that they are trying to achieve and the fact that eventually sooner or later they’ll take this over and this will be their job,” said Staff Sergeant Ronald Clayton.
The Iraqis in the district have welcomed the patrols and the security. They say there has been a marked improvement in security in the past few months.
But one student, still looking for a job as a teacher, told Al Jazeera it is all now too late for many of his friends as they have already left the country.
If the General Petraeus drawdown of troops goes to plan, the US will be back to the pre-surge levels of American troops by next March.
It will then be up to the Iraqi army to take the strain.
The captain in charge of the Iraqi patrol told Al Jazeera he had no doubts his troops were now capable of carrying the burden.
Doubts, though still remain in Baghdad. Many families live every day in fear, and every day another family decides to leave the country.