On a highway to Hilla …
A U.S. convoy arrives at Camp Virginia, Kuwait.
December 3rd, 2011
11:51 AM ET

On a highway to Hilla …

It's rush hour on Hilla Highway, the main road out of Baghdad south to Kuwait, as U.S. forces close up shop on nearly nine years of war. And from what I’m hearing from U.S. military officials, Hilla can be a hell of a drive.

Since the U.S. downsizing began in October, the number of attacks on U.S. troops has been on the increase.

According to Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, chief spokesman for U.S. forces in Iraq, U.S. troops are attacked on average three times a day. Now that’s nothing compared to the bad old days of 2007 when U.S. and Iraqi forces were being hit 145 times a day.

But the concern of U.S. military leaders is that the level of violence against U.S. forces will increase, perhaps significantly, over the next two weeks just as the U.S. military cuts its numbers and ability to defend itself.

Buchanan says Iranian-backed militant groups such as Asaib Ahl-Alhaq want to give the illusion that U.S. troops are retreating under fire.  Bases have been struck by mortars and rockets.

The good news is there are fewer bases to hit - from 505 at the war’s peak down to six as of this writing.   The bad news is the bad guys know U.S. troops are now concentrated in just a half dozen places.

Then there are the moving targets called convoys.

Trucks are making as many as 13,000 to 17,000 trips a week down Hilla Highway.  They are organized and of course protected by Iraqi and U.S. forces. And while there may be fewer boots on the ground these days, the Air Force has plenty of things in the air providing cover.  Everything from satellites, drones, helicopters and jets patrol the road from the sky.

The greatest threat on the road is the roadside bomb. Two weeks ago a U.S. soldier was killed by one in a convoy, according to Buchanan, but most of the time these attacks have merely damaged vehicles.

Troubling to the military is something called an EFP, which are showing up more and more. It stands for Explosively Formed Penetrator.

These are potentially far more lethal to those inside.

EFP’s are just one reason the military tries to keep convoy movements classified. But moving hundreds of trucks on a main road - hauling everything from tanks to washing machines - is hard to keep under wraps once they head out on the highway.

For U.S. forces still in Iraq, the finish line is in sight, but the road to get there is growing more and more dangerous.

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Filed under: Iraq • Military • U.S. • World
soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. hope

    I just love re Christmas, and its gonna be fine to have you home.


    December 4, 2011 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Gwen Stefani

    Fake gung hoe and fake Lindsey graham, you really ought to be ashamed of yourself. These troops enlisted for the betterment of out country, and even if they don't agree with the war, they go. You have done nothing but ridicule them...ridicule the people who sent them, bit the troops themselves. You show yourself to be unamerican, and as such, should hop the next flight out of the us so you will no longer have to tolerate what you should appreciate.

    December 5, 2011 at 1:48 am | Report abuse |
  3. Mary

    Again, in's NOT about the why or how or even their PERSONAL reasons why they enlisted, your a bit safer and they did what they needed to do to get paid. Most of them took it as their JOBS to PROVIDE for their families,and to be able to AFFORD a home and EDUCATION. I personally think the troops should be taken care forever! Medical Care included. Not for the families just because we couldn't pay for that. I'm sure what they saw, heard and had to do was not always easy or nice and will no doubt be hard to forget. For that alone they deserve all we can give them. We sure didn't go do it, did we??

    December 5, 2011 at 3:01 am | Report abuse |
    • George Patton

      Tell me something, Mary. Does what you said above also apply to the Russians who went to Afghanistan during the 1980's or is this something else that the Americans, the British and the French have a monopoly on according to you? Either way, both Iraq and Afghanistan need to left alone, free of foreigners!!!

      December 5, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
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