AMERICAN TROOP SAFETY IN IRAQ

….More than 60 joint security stations, staffed by American and Iraqi forces, and U.S. combat outposts are now operating in Baghdad, leading to an increase in the discovery of weapons caches, a U.S. military spokesman, Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell, said Monday.

“There’s two threats to the combat outpost . . . a huge truck bomb, and indirect fire,” Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, who handles day-to-day military operations in Iraq, said in an interview at his Baghdad headquarters last week. In response, he said, U.S. troops are building more walls to shield themselves from mortars and rockets, while trying to track down insurgents firing on them.

To counter truck bombs, military engineers are gauging the structural soundness of the outposts and making sure they are well removed from traffic, Odierno said. Antitank weapons such as the bazooka-like AT-4 are also now required for soldiers on guard.

“They are now armoring these trucks, so whereas before we could shoot them and kill them, now we have to use some antitank capability against them and we’re going to do that,” Odierno said.

For U.S. troops living at the small camps, the constant need for vigilance — coupled with hardship conditions and the prospect of 15-month tours — has in some cases taken a toll on morale. While some soldiers see advantages in living alongside Iraqi security forces inside the neighborhoods they patrol, others voice resentment over a mission they believe is ill-defined.

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