BAGHDAD — Photographer Chris Maddaloni and I arrived in Iraq this week. We’ll be spending the next three weeks traveling around the country trying to get a sense of how the mission has changed and how Iraq will look once U.S. troops leave in December.
Our agenda will include stops with the 148th Field Artillery Regiment in Baghdad, the 4th Infantry Division in Mosul, the 103rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command in Balad, and the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment in Kut. If you are deployed to Iraq now and see us, say hi. We’ve spent the first few days with Idaho National Guardsmen.
We want to hear from you. What questions do you want asked? What parts of the transition do you want covered? If you have deployed to Iraq, what changes do you expect to see? And what parts of the country are you curious to see now that only 50,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq. Contact me on email firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @_MichaelHoffman.
I’ll say my first impression is there are a lot of contractors here. We’re talking one soldier for every five contractors you see in the DFAC. We’ve only stopped in Baghdad in the International Zone and Camp Victory, though, so I’ll be interested to see if that is the same in Mosul and Kut.
As for all the talk in Washington D.C. this week about the security of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad once U.S. troops leave, the truth is, it’s rare to see a soldier at any of the check points around the International Zone (formerly the Green Zone.) We spoke to some of the contractors and Iraqi soldiers today and they sounded confident in continuing the mission after U.S. troops leave.
“They’ll be ready when we’re ready to leave,” said Capt. Robert Johnson, an anti-terrorism and force protection officer with the Idaho National Guard’s 148th Field Artillery Regiment deployed to the International Zone.