Armed Women Transform Baghdad Neighborhood

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The sounds of celebration echo on the streets of Baghdad's deadly Adamiyah neighborhood for the first time since the U.S. invasion.

Former Sunni insurgents - today America's greatest allies in defeating al Qaeda in Iraq - enjoy a recent victory that left eight suspected terrorists dead.

The U.S. now fights alongside their old Sunni enemy - and calls them "volunteers," CBS News chief foreign correspondent Lara Logan reports.

Some people call them America's militia.

"It's not a militia," said Lt. Col. Jefferey Broadwater, of the 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment.

What's the difference?

"These guys are under contract, they've been trained by the Iraqi government," Broadwater said.

A U.S. contract that includes a highly unusual weapon: local Sunni women - some 52 of them in Adamiyah - paid with American tax dollars to protect the schools, hospitals and anything else the neighborhood needs.

Logan spoke with a group of the women.

"It says here you're authorized to carry an AK-47 which is a rifle. You're trained to use an AK-47?" she asked.

"Yeah, yeah," one woman named Hana said.

But it's so dangerous to be seen working for the United States that many of these women hide their identity cards. Their greatest fear is losing their lives - and their jobs - when the United States pulls out.

"You don't believe the Iraqi government will pay you?" Logan asked.

"They hate us, they hate us," Hana said.

The Shiite-dominated Iraqi government hasn't been as eager as the United States to embrace their former Sunni enemies in spite of significant successes.

A mass of hidden weapons came from only two of 14 caches the volunteers uncovered in Adamiyah in the past two weeks.

Only a month ago one bustling main street was completely deserted. Now even the only gas station - closed for two years - has been re-opened by U.S. troops.

But the United States can't keep paying - and protecting the Sunni volunteers forever.

If it doesn't transition into the Iraqi police and the Iraqi government doesn't take it on, that's the danger?

"You are absolutely right," Broadwater said. "That is a huge danger."

It's a danger that could send the Sunnis back to war - this time with nothing left to lose.

  • Lara Logan
    Lara Logan

    Lara Logan's bold, award-winning reporting from war zones has earned her a prominent spot among the world's best foreign correspondents. Logan began contributing to 60 Minutes in 2005.