HILLAH, Iraq -- The slogan "de oppresso liber" is Latin for "free the oppressed." It's the motto of the U.S. Special Forces, but it also has been adopted by several of the Iraqi military and police units our FOX News "War Stories" team has been covering here in the land between the rivers. These special operations troops -- Americans and their Iraqi counterparts -- have become the tip of the spear in the war against radical Islamic terror.
U.S. military forces have started phasing down from the "surge" that began last summer. The 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, whose departure from Iraq was announced in November and currently is taking place, will not be replaced by an American unit. In the months ahead, four more brigade-sized units are scheduled to rotate home. If everything goes as planned, they all will be replaced by Iraqi security forces. This is just some of the good news that somehow just doesn't make its way into the mainstream media. But wait, there's more:
The Iraqi military and police that we have seen on this, our ninth trip to Iraq since 2003, are now remarkably well-trained and equipped. Though many of the personnel in these units have been on active duty for less than a year, they are, according to what we have seen and documented, ready, willing and able to fight for their country. Their motives for signing on are also important. In the town of Maderiya, east of Baghdad toward the Iranian border, I asked Capt. Fawaz Nazzir why he joined the new Iraqi army 11 months ago. His reply was a testament to American resolve in prosecuting this campaign: "I waited," replied Nazzir, "to see which side was going to win."
To some Americans, that may sound like a cynical response -- but not to those who have spent years campaigning in Mesopotamia. "What would you expect given how uncertain our commitment was at home?" commented one U.S. officer on his third tour of duty here. He continued: "Until 'the surge,' nobody in Iraq knew whether we were going to finish this fight. AQI (al-Qaida in Iraq) and the Shiite militias were all telling their followers that we were going to cut and run. 'The surge' proved that we weren't going to abandon them."
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.