Friday, July 02, 2004


(S)ince the handover of power, U.S. soldiers have seen improvements and enthusiasm among their Iraqi counterparts -- the security forces intended to take over so U.S. forces can go home.

They say that the Iraqis are showing greater pride and initiative under a sovereign government than under the U.S.-led occupation, even though the U.S. military remains in charge of security.

Lt. Col. Mohammed Faiq Raoof, commander of the 303rd Battalion of the Iraqi national guard, is increasing the number of patrols his men conduct.

"I want to show people that we are in power now," he told his U.S. commander during their weekly lunch, the first since Monday's transfer of power.

Raoof said Iraqi civilians seem to be taking pride in their security forces.

"Today, while on patrol, I saw people on the street clapping for them and smiling," he said. "The people are happy to see the Iraqi national guard."

When some Iraqi troops balked at carrying out combat operations in April against insurgents in Fallujah, questions arose about the reliability of Iraqi forces. Since then, however, Iraqi troops in the Baghdad area have repeatedly fought insurgents.

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