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Inside Iraq: Dangerous Allies

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New alliances with Sunni militias have reduced attacks on American troops in Anbar and elsewhere in Iraq. But will this new strategy lead to lasting stability or is it feeding a sectarian civil war? A team from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting traveled to the U.S. Army's front lines and to Baghdad's massive internal [Dave Enders] Captain Wohlgemuth took us out to what was once the most dangerous stretch of road in his region. two months ago his unit faced an average of four attacks a week here. [Wohlgemuth] "As we come through you'll be able to see the security here. I mean these guys do a fantastic job standing out here "every day, twenty-four hours a day they're on security. We'll dismount here and we'll start walking through the neighborhood you'll get an idea of the change." [Speaking Arabic] [Wohlgemuth] "Just asking him how many bullets they have, how they're doing. [Enders] Although Captain Wohlgemuth and his troops call their new tribal allies "freedom fighters," the Americans are well aware that yesterday they were called "insurgents" and that the diplomatic task of holding together this new alliance is both delicate and daunting. [Speaking Arabic] [Wohlgemuth] "Every one of these guys shot at us at one time in our life. [Enders] The army uses a combination of incentives to keep their alliance together. [Wohlgemuth] "I owe him $1,800 for the uh ..." [Wohlegmuth] "He's asking where his son is." [Speaking Arabic] "Tell him we're going to work to get him released. "The problem was when we came in here and we arrested everybody. If they had more than one weapon in their house they went to jail. and we can make huge friends if we can help to release them." [Enders] On the ground, America's Sunni tribal strategy has powerful critics on all sides. Back in Taji, Captain Wohlgemuth's [Wohlgemuth] "Oh shoot, let's go!" [Enders] As Captain Wohlgemuth's men arrive on the scene, his Sunni tribal allies draw their weapons on Shiite Iraqi Army officers, who they blame for letting a car bomber through their checkpoint. [Wohlgemuth] "I want you to get on the speaker, everybody goes home or they go to jail, right now!" [Loudspeaker in Arabic] [Wohlgemuth] You're about to have a civil war on your hands. The problem is that v-bed went right through that I.E. checkpoint and nobody stopped it and nobody searched it, and now every person in town is going to kill those guys.

Video Details

Duration: 8 minutes and 21 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Producer: Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting in association with Azimuth Media
Director: Richard Rowley and David Enders
Views: 123
Posted by: pulitzercenter on May 14, 2008

As featured on Foreign Exchange. New alliances with Sunni militias have reduced attacks on American troops in Anbar and elsewhere in Iraq, but will this new strategy lead to lasting stability, or is it feeding a sectarian civil war and exacerbating a growing refugee crisis? For more information on this topic, visit

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