U.S. troops in Iraq are doing detective work

The (Tacoma) News TribuneDecember 22, 2009 

KHANDARI, Iraq — The man sat crossed-legged on a floor cushion, sipped tea and explained his woes to the soldiers from Fort Lewis. As an Iraqi policeman on the American payroll, he has killed plenty of enemy fighters — and now his enemies are taking revenge.

Al-Qaida in Iraq killed his mother, brother and uncle. The man started the habit of checking under his car each morning. One day last month, he discovered a magnetically attached bomb.

"They are targeting me," he told members of a Fort Lewis Stryker platoon. "The bomb was meant for me and my kids."

Lt. Chris Fradin, a platoon leader with the 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, asked the policeman for specific details and took notes. A local sheikh earlier had given Fradin names of men who might have planted the bomb. The policeman provided his own list of possible suspects.

Fradin, 25, questioned the man about tribal links that permeate Nasir wa Salam, an area of 150,000 people at the western edge of Baghdad province. What did he know about the suspects? To what tribes did they belong? Do they have a reason to kill him?

"Look, man, I'm just trying to get to the bottom of this whole thing," said Fradin, a New York native and Spanaway resident on his first deployment. "We want this guy caught as much as you do."

U.S. soldiers increasingly find themselves in the detective-like role of Fradin and other members of the 2nd Platoon, Torch Company. They investigate crimes, chase leads and build cases against suspects.

They gather enough information so that an Iraqi court can order an arrest warrant, and then Iraqi security forces can arrest the suspect.

It is one of the ways the American military's mission in Iraq has transformed in the last several months into an advisory and training capacity.

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