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A 'surge' unit sees change, but questions its permanence

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Although the experience of the 1/64 applies to only one slice of Baghdad, many of the issues and challenges it has grappled with are similar to those confronting other units in Baghdad and in other restive provinces – Anbar, Diyala, and Nineveh – where most of the surge units were deployed.

Life on the front lines

Getting US soldiers into the dusty neighborhoods of Baghdad was a cornerstone of the surge.

At COP Adel, a battered shopping center now barricaded with giant walls and nicknamed "the mall," soldiers from the 1/64 recently milled around in front of their Humvees. Inside, others nibbled on hot meals trucked in from Camp Liberty, the battalion's headquarters within the sprawling US command complex next to Baghdad's airport. A few pump iron, some mop up, others surf the Internet.

"They tell us we are doing something for our country, but I do not see it," says one soldier, who did not want to have his name published. "It seems more like the real fight is in Afghanistan … instead they get us into this [area of operation], which is more like Mr. Rogers' neighborhood."

Adel, a once-prosperous middle-class area, is now almost all Sunni and poor. Shiites fled the sectarian violence of 2006 and their homes have been occupied by Sunnis displaced from neighboring Hurriya. That shift is just one example of the new sectarian segregation throughout Baghdad.

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