January 18, 2006 3:00 AM

Regiment's rotation out of Tal Afar raises questions about U.S. strategy

The mayor of this city in western Iraq is unhappy that his friends in the U.S. Armys 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment are going home soon, and hes written to President Bush and Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, begging them to extend the regiments tour of duty until its finished pacifying Tal Afar. The mayor, Najim Abadullah al Jibouri, is a Sunni Muslim Arab and a former officer in Saddam Husseins army whos not from Tal Afar. The provincial police chief in Mosul last summer appointed him a brigadier general to replace the local police chief, a Shiite who was turning a blind eye to police commando units that were disappearing suspected insurgents, all Sunnis. Terrorists had blown up the police stations and driven out most of the policemen who werent killed. On a U.S. recommendation, he was later promoted to mayor. Since then, al Jibouri has worked hand in glove with Col. H.R. McMaster, the commander of the 3rd ACR, and Lt. Col. Christopher Hickey, who commands Sabre Squadron, which is based inside Tal Afar. The mayor doesnt want them to leave when their yearlong deployment is over in March. The regiments success and the mayors concern about its departure raise two important questions about Americas strategy in Iraq.

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