Military Strykers Bring Initial Safety to Baghdad

ByABC News
August 22, 2006, 5:57 PM

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Aug. 22, 2006 — -- Military Stryker vehicles saturating Baghdad's most dangerous neighborhoods have been credited with what Iraqi authorities say is a 30 percent drop in violence in the city since the deployment of 5,000 additional U.S. troops to the region.

While U.S. figures show a 22 percent drop in violence, either way, its good news for the troops.

"It's been great. We get a lot of smiles and waves," said Lt. Patrick Paterson of the 114th Cavalry.

One of the most dramatic changes has occurred in the Dora neighborhood. In July up to 20 people were killed in the area every day. As part of this new military effort, U.S. and Iraqi troops have been searching thousands of buildings in an effort to stop car bombs.

"We established entry control points where we inspect, even now, every single vehicle [moving] in and out," said Col. Michael Beech, the commander of the 4th Brigade, 4th Infantry Division.

And there are signs it's working. During 14 days of patrols in Dora, there has been just one killing.

Similar success has occurred on Mechanic Street in southern Baghdad, generally considered among the most dangerous routes in the city. Now American troops patrol the region and people increasingly feel it is safe to frequent the street's businesses.

"I am happy because we are safe. The stores are open, and we can move around freely," said Majid al-Asawa in Arabic.

The added U.S. troops were brought in after a military operation earlier this summer flooded Baghdad with Iraqi forces, only to find the violence worsened. U.S. commanders say the additional American firepower can be only a temporary solution.

"It has to be the Iraq people with the Iraqi security forces that ultimately bring success and security to Baghdad," Beech said.

But hope has often gone sour in Iraq. If the country's political leaders cannot make their own peace, America's latest success in Baghdad could quickly reverse.