Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Downfall of Diyala

"As goes Diyala, so goes Iraq."

And it's not going well:

"The Baghdad security plan is killing American soldiers up here," one soldier put it.

Over the past five months, enemy tactics have turned squarely against U.S. and Iraqi troops. As sectarian killings and kidnappings have fallen by about 70 percent in Diyala, attacks on U.S. and Iraqi troops have increased by a corresponding amount, according to Col. David W. Sutherland, the top U.S. commander in the province. At least 46 soldiers from his 5,000-member 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Cavalry Division have been killed since they arrived in November.

The Stryker battalion reinforcements showed up March 13 and plunged into Baqubah, about 35 miles northeast of the capital. Their first day of reconnaissance turned into more than eight hours of urban combat against snipers, roadside bombs and rocket-propelled grenades.

"This is the most stressful environment we've been in, easily," said Capt. Ben Richards, a company commander with the Stryker unit, which fought in Tall Afar, Mosul, Anbar province and Baghdad before coming to Diyala.

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