Wednesday, September 12, 2007
U.S. military makes new friends in Iraq
U.S. Col. Michael Kershaw meets with Sunni leaders in Yusufiyah, formerly a hot spot for insurgent activity.
YUSUFIYAH, Iraq (CNN) -- Until recently, Yusufiyah was among the most dangerous places in Iraq.

Located in the so-called "triangle of death," a violent area south of Baghdad, it was the site of frequent clashes between coalition forces and Sunni fighters. In May, two U.S. soldiers went missing in Yusufiyah and were never found, despite a massive search.

But today, Sunni tribal leaders in this town cooperate with U.S. forces in their battle against foreign fighters and al Qaeda in Iraq.

"It's all the roll of the dice. It's people and politics all intertwined down here," said Col. Michael Kershaw, commander of the Second Brigade, 10th Mountain Division.

Kershaw now greets his former enemies with kisses, hears their grievances, spends time in their homes and even shares meals with them. He is surprised at how far relations have progressed.

Click here to read more

-- From Anderson Cooper and Pierre Bairin
Posted By CNN: 12:06 PM ET
  43 Comments
The idea that we are achieving progress in Iraq seems like a good thing to me, not an inconvenient fact.
Posted By Steve - Peoria, IL : 12:17 PM ET
Political developmentin Iraq is slow, but if we can avoid a full blown civil war, keep Iran and Al Qaeda out, that is better for Iraqis and the US and frankly all of the world.
Posted By James P., New Bern, NJ : 12:19 PM ET
People who oppose this war constantly move the goal posts when their dire predictions prove false. They can't acknowledge that progress forward has been occuring since Day One.
Posted By Laura , Tulsa OK : 12:23 PM ET
Anderson

The reports over the past 2 days have been absolutly eye opening and scary as heck. I have so much more respect for the men and women serving over there day in and day out after seeing all the reports from the 360 team.

Please stay safe all of you!!!!!!!
Posted By Megan O. Toronto, ON, Canada : 12:25 PM ET
Anderson and Pierre:

It was good to see your report last night. The entire time I was listening I was thinking to myself what is holding the other tribes/cities from taking charge themselves just like this Sunni group?

Three cheers for this group who is talking the ball with leadership and running with it and saying "hell no" to the terrorists!
Posted By Renee Bradenton, FL : 1:02 PM ET
Thanks for showing us some positive news, ANDERSON !

Can't imagine the kind of courage and strength it must take to be in Iraq, but I can tell you I am grateful that some people have it.
Posted By marilyn m, springfield, ma. : 1:05 PM ET
I have a small disagreement with your coverage. I don't think it's appropriate to show the full names of the US military members. I thought that was rather loose to name the soldiers. Thanks.
Posted By P.J., Atlanta, Ga. : 1:10 PM ET
First and foremost, I thank God every day for men and women who serve in the military, who so selflessly give it all up for America. I myself would have joined the Armed Forces if not for a physical impediment.

I thank you for finally boradcasting some pro-American news about Iraq. God Bless the Red, White and Blue !
Posted By Lacey J. Hawkins, Little Rock, AR : 1:16 PM ET
Im relieved the Sunni tribes are now working with our military leaders and soldiers and Im encouraged by your reporting . I hope this is a turning point in the war.
Posted By Morgan S., Lincoln, Nebraska : 1:18 PM ET
Congratulations to the Tenth Mountain Division. Will you have any news of the hunt for Osama Bin Laden?
Posted By Nanci Foll, Ft. Worth, Tx. : 1:19 PM ET
Anderson, Im glad you no longer will be passing thru the "Triangle of Death". Now will they change the name of this area to the "Peace Square" or "Friendship Village"?

Geri
Posted By Geri S. UM ,Ann Arbor, Michigan : 1:21 PM ET
Thanks for reporting the positives that are working in Iraq. It's nice to see the good that happens over there. What we're doing is proving to be successful. If one community can change, hopefully the rest will follow. You said you were keeping them honest. What a novel concept that the truth may just be that we're doing more good than the naysayers want to believe. Stay safe.
Posted By Tammy C., Berwick, LA : 1:22 PM ET
Hi Anderson, It sounds to me like the U.S. is commiserating with the enemy. This is a dangerous way to fight a war. Doing "whatever it takes" does not sound like a plan to me. Don't turn your backs on these so-called friends.
Take care. See ya tonight.
Posted By Judy Stage/Brooklyn MI : 1:28 PM ET
To Laura who says: "People who oppose this war constantly move the goal posts when their dire predictions prove false."

Unbelievable. How many times have the administration and its paid apologists within the punditocracy told us 'the next six months will be key' or words to that effect? Every time the six months is up, they slide the window - no, it's the NEXT six months that will be key.

I'd like to see a look back at the number of important officials' statements on when exactly we were going to 'turn the corner'. It's so blatant it would be hilarious. If it wasn't so sad.
Posted By Arachnae, Sterling VA : 1:33 PM ET
It's remarkable that the so-called "Triangle of Death" is now much more peaceful. Just goes to show what some love and respect can do in a community! What I found interesting with this report is that here we have a group of people who not only have proven that they know how to police their area, they actually want to become Iraqi police but it's obviously been a slow process for them. Looks like the Government "Red Tape" syndrome is alive in well in Iraq too!
Posted By Jolene, St. Joseph, MI : 1:41 PM ET
This situation stil seems tenuous to me. I just don't think people who have been led by a dictator know how to "govern" themselves. Do you really think we can teach them to protect themselves without the US mil. protecting THEM?
Posted By Juli,K Dover, De : 1:45 PM ET
Hi Anderson,
Stay safe. I think any time you deal with a country, whether in war or in conflict, the relationship with it is very much a "roll of the dice." Who do you trust, are they sincere, an enemy, or potential allies?
At the end of the day we have to hope the people of Iraq want what all human beings want...To live in a safe place with their loved ones, have food, shelter and some money. To live life and enjoy the moments of everyday living without bloodshed.
A roll of the dice is not a good start, but it's the beginning of a gamble that sometimes in life, pays off. Take Care. Thanks for the good work.
Posted By Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif. : 1:47 PM ET
And how long does our military intend to pay the Sunni sheiks up to $10 per man? If the cash runs out, do the Sunni's retreat back to the al Qaeda side? This is progress?

Without the co-operation of the Shiite dominated Iraqi government this will just be another costly military excercise, and there is no sign the current Iraqi government is willing to change.
Posted By Jan from Wood Dale, IL : 1:50 PM ET
Today's blog contains more encouragement and success than I've known for quite sometime in this war.

Now if someone can show us how to extend it to the rest of the world.

This week has been very interesting and educational. I had pretty much grown tired of the same bad news over and over.

Thanks!

Later
Maggie
Posted By Anonymous : 2:19 PM ET
Im happy to see some signs of progress in parts of Iraq. I guess you can't change peoples' mindset that has been set for 100s of years. If the everyday people are used to being under a dictatorship how can we show them freedom without making it look as if we're "forcing " it on them. You shouldn't have to "force" freedom on anyone, it should be a thing they desire.
Posted By Joyce Koske, Ozark, Missouri : 2:47 PM ET
How sincere are these Sunnis about this new-found friendship with the Americans? How long will it last? I would love to know.

I saw your report and what kind of freaked me out were those men eating with their hands. I realize it's their culture but that's a fast and easy way to get really sick. Be careful Anderson!
Posted By Mariela, New York, NY : 2:49 PM ET
Hi Anderson,
The reports that have been done on CNN the past two nights have been very interesting. I am also in the middle of reading "The Looming Tower" which is a really fascinating look at the tribal culture of the region. "The Haj" is another really interesting book that also explains more about tribal culture and the long standing dispute with Israel.
We are dealing with such unfamiliar customs and norms, it can be hard to track progress.
Stay safe and I look forward to the next three nights!
Posted By Pamina, New Rochelle, NY : 2:51 PM ET
When General Petraeus can give an honest positive answer to a question asked by Senator Russ Feingold, I will believe we are making progress in the Iraq war.

"When can we expect the troop deaths to decline in Iraq?"
Posted By Joseph Kowalski, North Huntingdon, PA : 3:00 PM ET
Anderson & Pierre,

It is interesting to me to see that alliance forming and how it will play out at the end.
As for the government working with them? THat is a long shot,not one I think will work anytime soon.
I always believe that citizens have more power than governments sometimes. That might prove to be one of those occasions.
There is so much history in that country between Sunnis and Shiites,will they go back to their ways if the U.S. troops leave? I used to think so,now,I see a microscopic ray of light.
I am looking forward for your interview with al-Maliki really. I don't trust him,he is cozing up too much to Iran.
Stay safe and it is a very interesting week. Thank you.

Joanne R.
Laval Quebec
Posted By Joanne R,.Laval QUebec : 3:18 PM ET
Anderson:
Your report was a refreshing segment revealing the pockets of change that are occurring in Iraq.

But as I suspect, it may not the norm. With the swiftness of how quickly US troops came in, this Sunni tribe might swiftly revert back to aggressive insurgents to survive and re-establish tribal lines if the US pulls out. It must be a delicate balancing act for our troops.

The model shown by this community would be ideal for all Iraq communities, wouldn't it? Realistically, this oasis of cooperation would only last as long as US troops are there to support and protect them from al Qaeda and other tribes.

The US is a bit arrogant to think we can change centuries of anger, territorial conflicts and tribal riffs by organizing local police squads and giving monetary incentives for communities remain peaceful.
Posted By Sharon D., Indianapolis, Indiana : 3:28 PM ET
Thank you so much for the coverage from Iraq these past two days. I think it is always good for the American people to be able to see what is going on there rather than merely being told by government officials. Also I just want to say to all the men and women who are putting their lives in danger for the price of freedom, thank you so much! It's great to be able to say that while I don't agree with various aspects of this war, I have the utmost respect for the men and women who answer the call when they are asked to serve. Thank you Anderson and the rest of the 360 and CNN staff for bringing us this great coverage. Looking forward to seeing the show tonight. Take care and stay safe!
Posted By Jessica, Bourbonnais Illinois : 3:38 PM ET
What is disturbing though. Is the fact that the American colonel doesn't even seem to know that you are supposed to eat with your right hand not your left.
You would think the army would be taught the basics.
Posted By Gary LeDrew : 3:40 PM ET
Hey Anderson - this may be a stupid question or I might be missing something, but if we are able to improve relations this much now, why couldn't this have been done sooner? Was there a definite obstacle or is it just the unpopularity with the war back in the the states and the impending election that has forced the administration to start thinking outside the box and work a little harder on finding solutions?

No matter what our opinion with the way the war is being handled, our thoughts our prayers and are always with the troops. They do what they are told and put their lives on the line every day. They have our unconditional support.

Stay safe and be careful over there. I don't know how you stand there so calm and collected considering the stories you hear of what is going on. You are a brave man Anderson Cooper! I personally would be shaking in my boots and scared stiff!

God Bless and thanks for blogging and keeping us updated so we know you're okay. I'm sure you could be using the time to sleep or eat. Speaking of eating, that food looked pretty good last night, even though I couldn't tell exactly what it was!
Posted By Christina, Windber, PA : 3:43 PM ET
Hi there! Thanks for letting us know that U.S. troops are helping train the new Iraqi police and army recruits. It's good to hear at least some of them will be sent home and the others to follow because of the constantly dangerous situations they face.
Posted By Carol B., Frederick, MD : 3:47 PM ET
Hi AC: What is the phrase "keep your friends close and your enemies closer", and in this case pay them to work for you to maintain their loyalty. It's nice to see a program that is working, but it makes me wonder if Americans will ever fully be out of Iraq. There is so much work to be done. These brave men and women are offering hope and encouragement to Iraqis, one neighborhood at a time. Thanks for this positive story and please be safe!
Posted By Kathy Chicago,Il : 4:07 PM ET
Whether you're against our presence in Iraq or see it as necessary, as Americans, we are not injured by appreciating that some meaningful good comes from our efforts daily.

We still are the "Great United States".
Posted By Larry Mitchell (ocoee, Florida) : 4:13 PM ET
It's good to hear that progress such as this is being made as all the news out of Iraq these days seems to be bad news. Thanks for keeping it real and stay safe.
Posted By Denise, Cork, Ireland : 4:38 PM ET
It's good to hear that progress such as this is being made as all the news out of Iraq these days seems to be bad news. Thanks for keeping it real and stay safe.
Posted By Denise, Cork, Ireland : 4:39 PM ET
Surely seems to fit a political agenda for me. I want peace, but I surely dont trust what is coming out of the media. Sure changed quickly once the winners of the debates were discussing pulling out due to the chaos. Now the media seems to want to present only how good it is. Not buying it.
Posted By Anonymous : 4:40 PM ET
$10 per man is a deal! In fact, I think we should expand the program to pay the Afgani farmers to grow wheat instead of poppies.

As always, great reporting from you and Pierre. Be tough on Mr. al-Maliki tonight.
Posted By Elaine, Ambler, PA : 4:44 PM ET
Thanks for the report on juvenile detainees. I think U were the only station to show that story.

Although the credit goes primarily to the military and the miltary's senior leaders, the President and the administration, especially the GOP portion of the Senate must be credited for not giving in to the cries for surrender last spring. I think we can make it.
Posted By David Haws, North Miami FL : 5:20 PM ET
It's good that the people of Yususfiyah have grown tired of the violent extremists. I am a believer that poverty causes social unrest and that if we did something address the severe poverty, we would definitely get somewhere with the terrorism that's gripping these countries.
Posted By Anonymous : 5:32 PM ET
Thank you so much for devoting this
whole week to the war in Iraq. Although I am learning things I did not know, I still can't help but oppose the war. I am saddened
by all the young men & women who have died and will die and for those who are returning home crippled physically and mentally for life. I can't help but see this as another Vietnam. I hope I
am proved wrong. Again you and
your team are doing a great job.
Hope you guys stay safe.
Posted By Barbara-Dalton Ga : 5:39 PM ET
Anderson,

Although I have opposed the war since day one, I am open to hearing good news like this no matter how late in the game this is.

This particular post serves to prove that we make strange bedfellows in war and diplomacy. It also reminds me a story related by Rory Stewart in "The Prince of the Marshes" about his year in So Iraq serving with the Provisional Authority. Rory, a Scot, recognized a local authority sitting on his sofa socializing with him, as someone who had just been firing on the British compound. He says, you were trying to kill me just a while ago. The reply with a smile--it was not personal. Good luck and stay safe.
Posted By Charlotte D, Stockton CA : 6:36 PM ET
Hi 360,
I'm glued to the tv at 10 pm! Very interesting reports on diverse subjects that are not covered often, if at all. Kudos galore, and stay safe!
Got a question for you (or Michael Ware,rather) :
why arent' the shiite militias fighting al Qaeda In Iraq like the sunnis now do? Apparently shiites hate sunnis....and for that reason the US government's claim that Iran supports the Taliban in Afghanistan is unreasonable btw...
How far spread is al Qaeda in Iraq anyway (geographically) and why doesn't anybody poll the Iraqis to find out what they think about al Qaeda in general?
The voices of the Iraqi people are not heard or even silenced. The Iraqi "elite" has fled the country long ago and should also be heard.
We keep discussing what WE want in Iraq to happen and how, I'd like to know how the Iraqis envision their countries future. It's their country.
And what is so bad about Iran's influence ?
I'm craving some enlightenment in those departments... can I have Michael's number please?
Posted By Minou, New York,NY : 6:44 PM ET
Hi Anderson, thanks for reporting on this last night. I'm happy to hear some positive news at last. What excites me about this particular story is that if these volunteers become part of Iraqi police, that will surely strengthen their security, which is one of the things they need before U.S. forces are able to pull out of Iraq.

I heard that you will be interviewing Gen. Petraeus and Mr. Al-Maliki today. I really look forward to seeing that tonight.

Take care,

Lilibeth
Edmonds, Washington
Posted By Lilibeth, Edmonds, Washington : 7:42 PM ET
Anderson, I am relieved to hear some positive news. Even if the "concern is that these gunmen might turn into armed militias...", it's a chance worth taking. As Col. Kershaw said, "it's a roll of the dice," but if it works out, the gamble will pay off (at least I hope so). Besides, we've already seen some good results.

Finally, to Mariela in NY, eating wtih your hands is actually not gross. When I was a kid in the old country, I used to do this too. As long as you wash your hands before and after eating, it's OK.

Thanks,
Lilibeth
Edmonds, Washington
Posted By Lilibeth, Edmonds, Washington : 8:33 PM ET
Its good to know that the Sunnis have decided the American forces are better to be allied with than Al-Queda. Perhaps that belief will persist and real progress toward a stable Iraq can be made. It is disturbing from 360's reports that a type of segregation between Shites and Sunnis are occurring in where they live, etc. Segregation generally leads to more conflict; lets hope a solution can be found for this as well.
Posted By Annie Kate, Birmingham AL : 9:08 PM ET
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