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Gates Checks In On Troop Surge's Progress

On Defense Secretary Robert Gates' fourth trip to Iraq in just six months, he got his first look at a joint security station. It is an example of one of the linchpins of the surge strategy – smaller outposts where U.S. and Iraqi forces work as a team within Iraqi communities.

Escorted by General David Petraeus, Gates toured one such outpost southeast of Baghdad, reports CBS News correspondent Thalia Assuras who is traveling with the Secretary.

Thirty-five-year-old Army Maj. Christopher Wendland, the executive officer of the station, explains that the goal is to build security and trust by living among the people.

"We get a lot of tips, we get a lot of phone calls," said Wendland. "That's really what helps us, because we're immersed in the community and because we work so closely with the community and they see us all the time."

Establishing security is a key challenge for the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki, and the U.S. is growing increasingly frustrated over its inability to stem the bloodshed.

At a Saturday news conference where the U.S. ambassador described progress as "frustratingly slow," Mr. Gates tempered the tone by emphasizing the extent of the challenges.

"These are people who are prepared to give up their lives for a different kind of Iraq than has existed in the past, so is this a difficult process? Yes, because of the history of this country," Gates said.

The big question is what will happen if this latest strategy doesn't show signs of success by September, when the president is to receive a comprehensive report, and if the Iraqi government doesn't meet its benchmarks by the same deadline.

No one traveling with Secretary Gates would answer that question.

In Other Developments:

  • The Iraqi capital sprung to life Sunday after a four-day curfew to thwart violence after a provocative attack on a Shiite shrine to the north, as a top American general acknowledged that security forces have full control in only 40 percent of the city. Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno's assessment came as a U.S.-Iraqi effort to pacify Baghdad entered its fifth month, with 30,000 additional U.S. troops now in place. But the city has so far seen little improvement in overall violence, and a tense political standoff was under way between the U.S.-backed government and Shiite lawmakers who suspended their participation in parliament.

    The identification cards of two American soldiers missing since an attack on their unit in May were found in an al Qaeda safe house north of Baghdad, along with video production equipment, computers and weapons, the U.S. military said Saturday. Spc. Alex R. Jimenez and Pvt. Byron Fouty were snatched in a raid on their 10th Mountain Division unit on May 12 near Youssifiyah.

  • The military said an American soldier was killed in a roadside bombing in southern Baghdad and an Ohio National Guard pilot was killed when his F-16 fighter crashed shortly after takeoff from Balad Air Base in central Iraq. The two deaths on Friday brought to at least 3,522 the number of American military personnel who have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
  • In Iraq's western Anbar province, the remains of 13 members of an Iraqi taekwondo team kidnapped last year were found near the main highway leading to Jordan, police and hospital officials said. The team had been driving to a training camp there in May 2006 when their convoy was interrupted.