Better Days Ahead For Baghdad?

couric and odierno in iraq

As second in command, few have logged more miles to Iraq's most dangerous places.

"I'm still not happy with the level of security," Gen. Raymond Odierno tells CBS Evening News anchor and managing editor Katie Couric. "The places we're going are in good shape, but there are still areas that aren't."

But Odierno's most critical battle may be the one he faces in the capital of Baghdad - a city that's a shell of its former self.

Of the 30,000 additional troops sent to Iraq for the surge, more than 26,000 were deployed to secure Baghdad. But since January, there's been a new strategy: Iraqi army and police work with U.S. forces in dozens of joint security stations - small police stations scattered through the area.

"What we did is, when we were on the outskirts, we would drive in every day to conduct patrols. kind of like taking a trip through the city. Now you're here permanently; you can walk outside," Odierno says.

Complete Coverage: America In Iraq: The Road Ahead
"With Iraqi forces," adds Couric.

"But so people get used to us. They get confidence in us - and, more importantly, it builds confidence in the Iraqi security forces," Odierno said.

The Iraqis know the neighborhood; the Americans have the know-how and the gear.

In one of the poorest sections of the city, residents are particularly vulnerable to militants and criminals who may want to recruit or exploit them. There are simple signs of life that Odierno says are good signs.

"Something as simple as sweeping it up is a positive?" asks Couric.

"It shows confidence," Odierno says. "Before security, they didn't care."

But there's more to this than sweeping up trash. U.S. reconstruction teams have doled out almost $600,000 in grants in east Baghdad alone to reopen businesses like bookstores at the city's famous Mutanabi market, which was nearly destroyed last March by a car bomb that killed 54.

Why was it important for this street to reopen and books to be sold in Baghdad?

"It's practically the most important thing. It's how we communicate,"
says a bookseller.

Odierno took Couric across the river to Haifa Street, the scene of an intense and important battle earlier this year.

Now it's a military public works project. Concrete barricades that keep car bombers out have been painted by local Iraqis. At a nearby market, the daily hustle and bustle of life is being seen and heard again.

U.S. Army Col. Bryan Roberts, of the 1st Cavalry Division, explains how the market has changed.

"Just the sheer number of stores that are open now compared to even last month. So January, February, the market was not open at all. Then in March, a few stores. In April, a few more. There are over a thousand stores open here now."

But alongside the smell of olives and Middle Eastern bread, there's the continued threat of violence.

One shopkeeper told Couric he did feel safer, but was still afraid of drive-by shootings.

An 11-year-old said he wasn't scared, and was surprisingly casual about the latest incident in his neighborhood.

"Yesterday a little kid got killed; got shot right here,: he said.

"A little kid?" asks Couric.

"A baby," he replies through a translator. How? "Small arms fire between two groups and she got caught in the middle."

The city is still rife with sectarian violence, al Qaeda, militias and criminal gangs. This past Saturday, four people were killed in a random shooting; one person was killed, and one wounded by a mortar attack. A roadside bomb wounded three Iraqi policemen, and scattered around the city, the bodies of 15 people were found. But that's a significant drop from last year, when an average of 85 people a day were being killed here.

"We've seen a reduction in incidents. We've seen a reduction in car bombs and truck bombs. We've seen a reduction in explosive IEDs in Baghdad. So the signs are good," says Odierno.

And as for the state of the Iraqi army?

"It'll take us a while longer to continue to get them to the strength necessary and trained at the level that we expect them to be at in order to maintain that control," says Odierno. "But the key piece that we are seeing is the fact that that populace is rejecting those troops, and that's the first step."

This is psychological warfare, Baghdad style. It's an effort to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people by turning them against extremists - and convincing them that U.S. and Iraqi soldiers are here to keep them safe and improve their lives.