WESTERN IRAQ -- "These Marines are great. America ought to be very proud of its Marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen; they're doing great work out here." So Marine Col. Stephen Davis, the commander of Regimental Combat Team 2 (RCT-2), told me once we had a chance to talk near al Qaim, Iraq.
Davis is in charge of Operation Matador, an effort to bring law and order to the bulk of Iraq's vast, western al Anbar province, which makes up one-third of the country. What these Marines are doing now near the Syrian border is what they did months ago in Fallujah, and the progress is evident.
In Fallujah, the people are returning, life is improving, and civic pride is on the rise. It is a vastly different place from what it was when I was last there eight months ago. Just a few days ago, I filed reports for FOX News from Fallujah without a flack jacket and Kevlar helmet, something unthinkable eight months ago, when terrorists controlled the city. In the eight months between my visits, U.S. forces dislodged the jihadists that had turned that city into a hell on earth comprised of human slaughterhouses, torture chambers and weapons factories, where car bombs and suicide bombing vests were manufactured and stored to be used elsewhere in the country.
Now in Fallujah, an Iraqi-elected government is in charge and a certain semblance of normalcy can be felt. Security is improving and increasingly handled by Iraqi forces, led by Iraqi decision-makers. Even the public utilities are on the mend.
Marines working with city leaders told me that a new biohazard disposal incinerator was installed at a nearby medical facility; a chlorination facility was installed to fight the spread of cholera; and an information brief board was erected to improve communications among the citizens, government leaders and U.S. support elements. It is a far cry from a year ago, when the charred bodies of Americans were strung up from bridge girders and the hospitals were used as terrorist command centers.
In Fallujah, there is no doubt that progress is being made. Today, similar efforts to clean out terrorist encampments are taking place elsewhere in the country. Operation Matador is taking place in al Qaim and the surrounding area, and with some added elements of help, will turn this area into a success story, just as was done in Fallujah.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.