Tanks roared down a crowded Baghdad street Thursday. They were intimidating, but mostly symbolic — part of Iraq's new operation, "Together Forward," intended to secure Baghdad from insurgents.
But a more realistic way of defeating the insurgency, according to senior U.S. military officers, is with Iraqi troops on the ground, advised by small numbers of American soldiers called military transition teams, or MiTTs. We traveled with a U.S. Army team from the 101st Airborne Division, which constantly questions and prods units of Iraq's new army.
"Do you have a list of vehicles that you should be on the lookout for?" one soldier asks his Iraqi counterpart.
The Iraqi soldier doesn't have the list.
Maj. Chuck Markos and his men look after Iraqi soldiers on one of Baghdad's worst neighborhoods, Adamiyah.
"I worry about you," Markos tells an Iraqi wearing no armor. "You have to have your armor on you."
"We are just trying to make sure that the Iraqi army is set up for success," says Lt. Col. Paul Finken, brigade MiTT commander.
Their job is to mentor a growing, but still immature, military force — and to win their loyalty.
The MiTT teams say one of the biggest problems is to get the Iraqi army to be proactive rather than reactive. Be the hunter, not the hunted.
Thursday was graduation day for the newest members of a rapidly growing Iraqi army. Each day it gets bigger, but is it getting better? That answer is now in the hands of a few hundred American troops.