Video: Who is the enemy in Iraq?

By Richard Engel Chief foreign correspondent
NBC News
updated 10/18/2006 7:50:51 PM ET 2006-10-18T23:50:51

The 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team preps for a journey into the unknown — a patrol on Baghdad's dangerous Haifa Street.

"The enemy threat is high from the high-rises, dropping grenades on us," says one soldier.

Today is the Alpha platoon's 476th patrol after 14 months in Mosul, Anbar, and now Baghdad, the most complex of all.

"You don't know where the bad guy is at any given moment," says Sgt. 1st Class Donald Kane of the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team.

And you don't know when they'll attack.

As the soldiers collect pieces of a mortar fired last night, this morning there are gunshots.

Snipers have just apparently started firing in this area. U.S. troops are now spreading out to determine where the shooting is coming from.

The soldiers scan the buildings, load into the Strykers, and go right back on patrol. But in the alleys, as on Haifa Street, they are watched.

Locals in overwatching positions signal their location to insurgents by waving flags, and releasing homing pigeons.

It's a frustrating, unfamiliar world for Benjamin "Ford" Gardenhire, son of Rocky Mountain cowboys, named for the truck he was born in.

"You go out there and you don't know — rounds start flying — you don't know who you can shoot at, who you can't, there's no set uniform for the enemy — you don't know who it is," Gardenhire says.

His bunkmate Rob Graves is more blunt.

"If they want to kill each other why the hell are we here?" he asks. "Why is my buddy getting turned into Swiss cheese by an IED if it's meant for the guy across the street?"

These soldiers said they can't lose focus. The enemy is hard enough to find.

After a day on Haifa Street, Gardenhire returns to something closer to home — practicing with his lasso, mentally preparing for another patrol tomorrow in this city increasingly full of hidden dangers, and questions about who the enemy has become.

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