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GUEST,Dickey BS: Maliki doesn't want more U.S. troops (750* d) RE: BS: Maliki doesn't want more U.S. troops 28 Feb 07

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After visiting the clinic, the paratroopers walked a few blocks to the home of the head of the neighborhood advisory council. The children stayed with them, chanting "Hi, mister" as they walked.

"It's like a traveling circus," said 1st Lt. Josh Rowan, a platoon leader in Bravo Battery. "Glad we don't have to sneak up on anybody."

The children might have been so effusive because these are the first American soldiers they could follow. Previous units in charge of the area would ride through in armored vehicles once in a while, but they didn't get out and meet the people.

"They drove the routes, but in terms of actual boots on the ground, they didn't have that," Rowan said. "They've not had a lot of personal interaction with soldiers."

Abu Muhanned is the head of the nine-member council in Rabi. He greeted soldiers at his home down an alley off the market street in a dark blue dishdasha — the ankle-length Arab robe — and bare feet. A cigarette burned to the filter was stuck in his hand.

As the paratroopers entered, he slapped them on the back and ushered them into his living room. Rowan and the others sat down on long couches. Muhanned settled his large frame into a plastic chair and lit another cigarette.

Then he proceeded to describe a neighborhood where peace is tenuous.

There have been few problems, he said, but militia groups from Sadr City and other neighborhoods travel through, sometimes making trouble. Muhanned's son was forced to live in Syria after he refused to join a militia.

"I've talked to my area and told them the American Army has come to save the Iraqi people," he said.

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