The Washington Post, in interviews with U.S. soldiers -- from top generals to front-line grunts in Tall Afar, Mosul, Ramadi, Balad and throughout Baghdad -- as well as briefings at the U.S. military headquarters for the Middle East in the Persian Gulf state of Qatar, reveal a markedly different war from that seen in 2003, 2004, or even this last year of 2005.
"In the Battle for Baghdad, U.S. Turns War on Insurgents"
It is a difficult way to wage war. On one typical day this month, there were 24 "significant acts" -- small-arms attacks, bombings and other noteworthy events -- recorded in one relatively small part of Ebel's area of operations. "We got ambushed all over" but didn't suffer any casualties, said Maj. Daniel Morgan, operations officer in a 101st battalion southwest of Baghdad. "We've been pushing into the west," into insurgent havens along the Euphrates River southeast of Fallujah, "and they don't like it."
A drawback in this slow-motion war is that some soldiers find it frustrating. At the medic's station in Patrol Base Swamp -- which with its bare cots and hanging light bulbs feels like a scene from World War II -- three soldiers of the 101st said they loathe their time here, especially since the death of a beloved squad leader a week earlier.
"It's like trying to track down a bunch of ghosts," said Sgt. Chad Wendel, sitting on an Army cot under a window frame shielded by a blanket.