Last spring we spent a day in Sab Al Bor, a town of about 60,000 people just north of Baghdad. The Fourth Infantry Division had done a remarkable job there. They pacified a restive place that had seen its share of suicide bombs and mortar fire.
American lives had been lost in the process, but the mission in Sab Al Bor was being accomplished. Three and four times a day, the Americans would walk patrol through every neighborhood ... and the locals, once distrustful, would greet them as friends.
I read in this morning's USA Today that the Americans handed over control of Sab Al Bor to the Iraqis on September 20, but just 15 days later, they had to go back. The Iraqi police force that had taken over disintegrated, and once again Shiites and Sunnis were killing each other by the dozens.
In two days of fighting to win back the town, eight more Americans died. One of their commanders, Col. David Thompson, who we met in May, said, "If Iraqi security forces can't be counted on, we have no strategy for winning."
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By Harry Smith