U.S. troops in western Baghdad: We're bored, send us to Afghanistan; Update: Foreign jihadis head to tribal areas

Via LGF, it’s a small sample but small samples are de rigueur in Iraq reporting. All quiet on the western front?

Spc. Grover Gebhart has spent nine months at a small post on a Sunni-Shiite fault line in western Baghdad. But the 21-year-old soldier on his first tour in Iraq feels he’s missing the real war — in Afghanistan, where his brother is fighting the Taliban…

“I’ve heard it a lot since I got here,” said 2nd Lt. Karl Kuechenmeister, a 2007 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point who arrived in Iraq about a week ago.

Soldiers who have experienced combat stress note that it is usually young soldiers on their first tour who most want to get on the battlefield. They say it is hard to communicate the horrors of war to those who have not actually experienced it…

That soldiers are looking elsewhere for a battle is a testament to how much Iraq has changed from a year ago, when violence was at its height. Now it’s the lowest in four years, thanks to the U.S. troop surge, the turn by former Sunni insurgents against al-Qaeda in Iraq, and Iraqi government crackdowns on Shiite militias…

The daily average of 0.50 deaths so far in July is significantly below any month in the war. The lowest for a full month was 0.61 deaths in May, and the next lowest was 0.71 in February 2004.

They’re stationed in Ghazaliya, once a sectarian hot spot in Baghdad and site of some of the most vicious Sunni/Shiite fighting in 2006. Revisit this harrowing Times piece from January 2007 aptly describing the new American outpost there as being caught in a “vortex.” A month later things were quieting down thanks to the American presence and to the fact that the Shiites were pushing more of the Sunnis out, but a major attack on the U.S. base was still expected. By July the neighborhood was starting to revive. A year later, U.S. troops are bored. So let’s borrow Totten’s quote of the day for an exit question: Is the war “over,” at least to the extent that some troops can be redeployed? The Iraqis interviewed for that NYT Obama propaganda piece this morning say they’re not ready yet and even U.S. troops interviewed for this AP story on Al Qaeda’s near-total defeat concede that the government still has no influence over parts of the country, but we’re not talking about a full pullout. We’re talking about a few brigades to bolster the force in Afghanistan where they’re sorely needed — a point on which Obama and McCain agree.

Update: The degree to which AQI is comprised of foreign (i.e. Saudi) jihadis versus homegrown Iraqi converts will forever be a point in contention, but to the extent that there is a foreign element, more of them seem to be bypassing the Iraqi theater for the Afghan one.