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03 December 2007
American combat leaders ranging from young corporals to veteran colonels like COL Stephen Twitty are cracking the code on Iraq. Twitty commands US operations in Ninevah and his brigade has kept control here with what amounts to a skeleton crew. We’ve had only one battalion in Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, all year. In other words, less than 1% of our combat power has held one of the most challenging cities in Iraq for an entire year.
And now, as Colonel Twitty takes his soldiers home, it seems few outside this area will ever know what they’ve done. I’ll do my best in the weeks and months ahead to explain how the 2-7 Cav has been operating like a giant Special Forces A-team for most of the past year. Twitty’s forces have set conditions for success. Colonel Michael Bills is the incoming commander; and from what I have seen in recent days, Colonel Bills’ folks are ready to take the reins.
The two colonels have been flying all over Ninevah seeing their own troops, observing the battlefield, and meeting with key Iraqi leaders. When we visited one powerful sheik there were hours of interesting conversation. Judging from his mansion, Sheik Abdullah has apparently more wealth than most people dream about. We landed outside his compound in two helicopters, and after several hours of conversation, were served a fabulous meal, that for me, included goat brains. Or maybe it was sheep brains. Afterwards, there was dessert and as the commanders smoked cigars with the sheik, Colonel Twitty talked about leadership, telling the sheik that sometimes you have to be willing to shed a little of your own blood to set your people free.
Before the day was over, Sheik Abdullah presented Colonel Twitty with the brown robe and gold trimming of a sheik. When Twitty put on the robe to honor his host, I shot a few photos. Seeing him in the raiments, I said he looked like Sheik Twitty al Ameriki, which drew a laugh from Sheik Abdullah and Sheik Twitty. When I told Colonel Twitty I was going to tell the world that he had gone native, the commander merely laughed.
I believe there are some bloody days yet ahead in Ninevah, but that the conditions are set: 2008 might be the Year of Iraq. If fortune favors that prediction, it will be largely because of men like Twitty, and all those corporals and sergeants out there whose stories never will be told individually, but whose sacrifices are setting Iraq free at last.
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