US Soldiers Want to Leave Iraq

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Because it’s boring. They’d rather be in Afghanistan: Quiet Iraq streets leave soldiers yearning for Afghanistan.

The relative calm is apparent in Baghdad’s Ghazaliyah neighborhood, patrolled by troops stationed at Maverick from the 1st Squadron, 75th Cavalry Regiment of the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division.

Instead of facing gunfire and roadside bombs, the soldiers’ armored Humvees are chased by waving children as they weave through streets crowded with pedestrians out to shop or just to stroll.

Some of Maverick’s troops saw combat a few months ago when they helped the Iraqi army take over the Ghazaliyah office of anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in a battle complete with gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades. But their days in Ghazaliyah have mostly been filled with routine patrols. The soldiers’ job is to serve as a critical presence that helps keep violence down in the mixed Sunni and Shiite neighborhood.

“Ninety-five percent of the time it is perfectly quiet in Ghazaliyah now,” said 1st Lt. Shane Smith, who leads one of the three platoons at Maverick.

Quiet can mean boredom, as Gebhart and a colleague turn in another four-hour shift in one of Maverick’s guard towers, looking over a landscape of two-story concrete buildings and green fields dotted with a few cows and goats.

To while away the time, the young soldier from Omaha, Nebraska, talks of his brother, who is fighting the Taliban in the mountains outside Kandahar city in southern Afghanistan. “He spends 20 days at a time camped out in the mountains, and the Taliban come engage them in serious firefights,” said Gebhart. “At least it sounds exciting.”

(Hat tip: Occasional Reader.)

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Last updated: 2016-01-01 10:29 am PST
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