Not your usual explosive Iraq fare here — no IEDs going off or airstrikes on buildings with snipers in them, as you’ll often see on LiveLeak — but that’s the point. This is Ramadi, formerly AQ HQ and written off as a lost cause, now a green zone for U.S. troops. Michael Totten went out on patrol with a squad last month and shot 20 minutes of video of what life is like there now. Try to watch it all; it’s the only way to appreciate both the competence of U.S. troops and the mundane business of building good relations as an effective counterinsurgency. Gates spoke yesterday about the military needing to prepare for further “unconventional” conflicts in the future. These guys are building the knowledge base. Let’s just hope we can keep them.

If you don’t have time for the whole clip, skip ahead to 10 minutes in and listen to what Totten’s guide says about the mosques, and then again at around 15 minutes in re: people moving back into their homes. Money quote: “Most of the people fighting us, they’re just using religion as an excuse.”

Exit question to our military readers: Is there any deeper significance to the big news this morning about the Marines possibly taking over in Afghanistan while the Army takes over in Iraq? It sounds like the big selling point is simply organizational efficiency: give each force its own theater so that it can coordinate operations internally, especially as regards troop rotations, without having to involve the other branches. There’s some mention at the end about Afghanistan possibly being more suited to the Marines’ integrated strategy (i.e. they have their own air power) than Iraq, but I’m not sure why that would be. Any ideas?

Click the image to watch.

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Tags: religion