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Totten: Sadr City After the Fall

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Another great piece from Iraq by Michael J. Totten: Sadr City After the Fall.

The way into Sadr City itself was from Combat Outpost (COP) Ford, a one-company base wedged between Sadr City and the adjacent Beida neighborhood. Captains Todd Looney and A.J. Boyes ran the company, and they were two of the friendliest and most hospitable American military officers I had yet met. I stayed up for hours talking to these two in their quarters and never once felt like I was imposing. Their outpost developed an excellent reputation among journalists as a place to be based, and I wished I could have stayed longer.

Looney and Boyes’ company did most of the fighting in Sadr City last year when the Jamilla Market area was purged of militiamen and a three-mile long wall of concrete barriers was erected to keep them from coming back in.

“On our worst day,” Captain Looney said, “we only got eight barriers up. But once we figured out how to do it, we didn’t lose any more people.” Three of his men were killed before they taught themselves how to build a wall under fire without getting blown up or shot. Framed photographs of the dead hung on the wall.

“The Iraqi Army did pretty good, too,” I said. “They did better in both Sadr City and Basra than most people expected,” I said.

“Absolutely,” Captain Boyes said.

Most analysts at the time thought the Mahdi Army would hand the Iraqi Army its ass on a plate. I wasn’t terribly optimistic myself. Purging urban neighborhoods of guerrillas is tough work. First World professional armies often fail. The Iraqis, though, stunned the world.

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