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thedrifter
04-10-06, 08:07 AM
Marines revamp positions in Iraq
The Associated Press
Originally published on April 10, 2006

QAIM, Iraq - U.S. Marines along the volatile Syrian border have largely abandoned big bases to fan out over a dozen smaller outposts in Iraqi cities - part of a resurrected Vietnam-era strategy to live among civilians and mentor local soldiers.

Hundreds of Marines now live in 13 "battle positions" in five riverside cities, near where the Euphrates River enters Iraq from Syria. The new positioning allows them to launch more patrols, especially on foot, but it also increases their exposure to attacks because they travel in smaller numbers.

The strategy, implemented after a large-scale U.S. and Iraqi offensive in the area last November, is a change from the common U.S. military tactic of relying on patrols that depart from sprawling bases on the edges of cities.

"You've got to be in the towns, live among the people, eat with them ... until the people start telling you where the bad people are," said Lt. Col. Julian Alford. "If you live on the [bases] outside the city and come in for patrols, you're not going to win this."

U.S. commanders view the border region as key because they say foreign fighters coming from Syria can be intercepted here before they reach more populated parts of Iraq. Suicide bombings in Baghdad and other cities have dropped because of this strategy, commanders say.

Alford, who commands the 3rd Battalion, 6th Regiment, that oversees the area, says the strategy of "spreading out" was modeled after the Vietnam-era CAPs program, or Combined Action Platoon. That program based small groups of Marines inside villages to train South Vietnamese soldiers who gradually assumed greater security responsibilities.

Also yesterday, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak angered Shiites in the Arab world by saying they were more loyal to Iran than their own countries, echoing accusations made by his fellow Sunnis in Iraq about their country's Shiite leaders. He also said a civil war was essentially underway in Iraq.

"It's not on the threshold [of civil war]. It's pretty much started," he said.

Ellie