Here in Samarra, a Sunni city, al Qaeda -- also Sunni -- is the number one enemy. They not only attack US forces and the Shi'a national police, but also civilians all over the city. A case in point is today, when al Qaeda carried out an RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) attack on the hospital here in Samarra. At the time, it was full of over 200 women and children.
This is the situation, and the type of person, to whose mercy some in America want us to abandon the Iraqi population. That is unacceptable.
As we were talking with civilians in a crowded market on our patrol this evening, a masked al Qaeda man popped up at the end of the street and started firing at our vehicles. We took off sprinting, running a good 4-or-5 blocks in full gear, but didnt catch the guys. The shots were directed at us though we were in a crowded civilian market.
It's tough to describe the thoughts that go through your head as a hail of bullets floods an area and you purposely sprint toward it. I suppose that only cops, soldiers, and combat journalists can understand that.
The patrol ended relatively uneventfully, and we had a meeting with a police General -- a jolly fat man who is extremely charismatic and effective -- that just ended.
Last night, we met with a Sunni tribal sheik to ask for his help tracking down terrorists here. The meeting was very clandestine, as being seen talking with coalition forces can put his life in great danger. We spoke in the living room of his concrete house, around midnight, with only a single oil lamp providing illumination. As a diversion, so that it wouldn't be obvious that our presence in the neighborhood was specifically to meet with him, a platoon from the company of the 82nd Airborne unit I'm with searched every house on the block. Though the meeting was fairly productive, it'll still take time to cultivate the sheik as an ally and source of information, as he is very rightly afraid for his life should someone find out he is helping the coalition.
We'll be back out in the city tomorrow, looking for more al Qaeda and talking with more civilians, trying to get information on where to find the bad guys (those who don't find us first, that is).
Click here to see the rest of Jeff's reports from "Inside the Surge" on the front lines in Iraq.