Surge: US troops prepare for George Bush’s last stand but with allies they don’t trust and enemies who confuse them, commanders know it will be bloody

EXCERPT:….They all look similar: balaclavas or wrap-around sunglasses and headbands, black leather gloves with fingers cut off, and a very lethal arsenal of weapons. When not manning checkpoints, they hurtle through the streets in 4x4s, scattering the traffic by firing in the air. It is impossible to say which particular group they belong to….

The main target, the Mehdi army, has around 50,000 well-armed fighters in the capital, mostly concentrated in Sadr City, the vast slum next to Baghdad, and the Shia holy city of Najaf and surrounding areas. But Mr Sadr also has 25,000 more militiamen in the south, where British forces will be in the firing line of retaliation for what the Americans do in Baghdad.

The Shia (Mehdi) militias are backed by Iran,… while the Syrians are accused of harbouring Sunni insurgents. In his speech last week Mr Bush once again accused the two countries of “allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq … We will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq. ”

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