HILLAH, Iraq -- The slogan "de oppresso liber" is Latin for "free the oppressed." It's the motto of the U.S. Special Forces, but it also has been adopted by several of the Iraqi military and police units our FOX News "War Stories" team has been covering here in the land between the rivers. These special operations troops -- Americans and their Iraqi counterparts -- have become the tip of the spear in the war against radical Islamic terror.
U.S. military forces have started phasing down from the "surge" that began last summer. The 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, whose departure from Iraq was announced in November and currently is taking place, will not be replaced by an American unit. In the months ahead, four more brigade-sized units are scheduled to rotate home. If everything goes as planned, they all will be replaced by Iraqi security forces. This is just some of the good news that somehow just doesn't make its way into the mainstream media.
But wait, there's more: The Iraqi military and police that we have seen on this, our ninth trip to Iraq since 2003, are now remarkably well-trained and equipped. Though many of the personnel in these units have been on active duty for less than a year, they are, according to what we have seen and documented, ready, willing and able to fight for their country.
Their motives for signing on are also important. In the town of Maderiya, east of Baghdad toward the Iranian border, I asked Capt. Fawaz Nazzir why he joined the new Iraqi army 11 months ago. His reply was a testament to American resolve in prosecuting this campaign: "I waited," replied Nazzir, "to see which side was going to win."
To some Americans, that may sound like a cynical response -- but not to those who have spent years campaigning in Mesopotamia. "What would you expect given how uncertain our commitment was at home?" commented one U.S. officer on his third tour of duty here. He continued: "Until 'the surge,' nobody in Iraq knew whether we were going to finish this fight. AQI (al-Qaida in Iraq) and the Shiite militias were all telling their followers that we were going to cut and run. 'The surge' proved that we weren't going to abandon them."...
That's not to say that Iraq is no longer dangerous. It still can be lethal -- particularly for Iraqis.
The day we arrived in Hillah, an improvised explosive device killed Lt. Gen. Qais Hamza al-Mamouri, the Babil province chief of police and the architect of the reconciliation movement in southeastern Iraq. A vigorous opponent of Iranian influence in Iraq, Qais was also the author of an agreement among tribal and community leaders pledging to "provide security for all citizens without regard to sect, ethnicity or political party affiliation."
Less than 24 hours after Qais was killed, our FOX News team went to the headquarters of the Hillah SWAT police to meet with their commander, Brig. Gen. Mohammad Abbas al-Jubori, a Qais protege... As we left the Hillah SWAT headquarters, Abbas took the wheel of his unmarked SUV and said, "Sit beside me. I'll show FOX News a safe Iraqi city." He did. For more than two hours, we walked streets where Iranian-supported Shiite militia gangs once held sway over 500,000 Iraqis. As he waded through throngs of citizens grieving the loss of Qais, Abbas promised, "We will never forget Gen. Qais. We will continue his legacy of giving every Iraqi equal protection from all criminals."...
Oliver North, Nationally Syndicated Columnist
December 14, 2007