Rare Visit to Iraq's Deadliest Region

Nearly every city and town in Iraq known for extreme violence is in al Anbar Province, and bringing an end to those attacks is critical to peace in Iraq.

For two days and more than 600 miles of helicopter travel, ABC News visited the region with Maj. Gen. Richard Zilmer, the Marine Corps general in charge of U.S. forces in al Anbar.

The province between Baghdad and the Syrian border includes Ramadi, Fallujah, Al Qaim and Haditha, and is key in the latest plan to defeat the insurgents, as it is in the heart of the Sunni uprising.

"We want to make sure that Anbar is not a safe haven that they can retreat to, nor do we want it to be a staging ground for moving into Baghdad to wage the fight in Baghdad," Zilmer said.

That is why the Pentagon is sending 4,000 additional U.S. forces into al Anbar to augment the 30,000 troops already on the ground. Soldiers and Marines said they need all the help they can get.

"Right now I don't think we have enough," said Sgt. Joshua Martinez.

"The more we have here the better we'll be able to control the situation," said First Sgt Louis Barnum.

Progress Needed Among Iraqi Soldiers

Senior U.S. officers said that no matter how many Americans are sent to al Anbar, or how much the administration touts its "new" plan, the United States is actually doing what it has for years -- relying heavily on training Iraqi forces to take over the fight, and that has clearly not gone well in the past.

Last year in Ramadi, when an Iraqi army battalion was asked to serve, just 20 of the 800 soldiers showed up for duty. When an improvised explosive device later went off, none of them returned to work.

But in the past few months, Zilmer said he has seen remarkable progress with the Iraqi army and police. "They are trained at academics and now coming back here and taking on their roles and responsibilities in their neighborhoods and communities," he said.

Al Anbar as a whole has seen a drop in violence over the last few months, but Zilmer knows that much more progress is needed here and in Baghdad if there is any hope of success for this plan.

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