On Patrol in Baghdad; Update: Photos posted at Michelle's site

Michelle and I are embedded with a unit in Baghdad that’s responsible for the “standing up” part of the US plan to get Iraq ready to become master of its own destiny. This unit trains Iraqi army and police, which are co-located on the base here, while it also sees to the security and humanitarian needs of the community surrounding the post. The US Army troops here have a complex and daunting mission that stretches and stresses them to the limit, but they are performing the mission with a gallantry and devotion that would make all Americans proud if you could see it for yourself. We hope to bring a flavor of it to Hot Air in the coming days so that you can see a small part of it for yourselves.

In our short time here we have talked with privates, NCOs and officers across a spectrum of duties and assignments on several bases performing a range of missions, and while that certainly doesn’t make us newly minted experts on the situation here it has given us a broader perspective on the war here and how it is truly progressing. Several themes have emerged that, while they may not represent the absolute story on given issues, certainly point to a general consensus on the status of the war among those who are here on the front lines fighting it. Our troops are motivated and dedicated like no other group of people I have ever seen. More than any politician, journalist or blogger, our troops understand the history and cultural forces swirling in Iraq that make it such an incredibly challenging environment. They are bringing that knowledge to the struggle every day, and while their efforts may not always result in perfect outcomes, no one should doubt their devotion to winning the war here in all of its dimensions.

Without hesitation, I can say that this fight is the most intricate and complicated mission our military has ever faced. Our troops are daily engaging in missions that their military training never prepared them for, but they are performing those missions with amazing thought and skill. When you add in the external forces at play, whether they’re stateside politics or the mix of enemies on Iraq’s doorsteps and operating on its streets, the mission in Iraq becomes a Gordian knot of military, political and humanitarian issues that overlap to the point that failure in any one will precipitate failure in all of them. So far, we’re failing in several but not to the point that the situation can’t be rescued. The failures are, in my opinion, almost entirely products of Washington politics and decision-making. Washington has yet to make the war in Iraq a truly national effort, and has not yet brought to bear the full range of American resources it will take to give us a chance of success here.

While we’ve been here we have also spoken with a range of local folks, from sheiks to slum dwellers, and gotten their views on America, the “new Iraq,” and the conduct and progress of the war and we will bring you those views in the coming days as well. We brought along our video camera, so we will have episodes of Vent produced on the streets of Baghdad.

We’re safe, we’re well and we’re going out on patrol again later this morning. We’ll meet local leaders and visit sites that have been in the news recently. And we’ll bring you whatever we find out. Michelle will have some photos from our first patrols posted at her blog later on.

Update (AP): The boss’s photos are up.