PATROL BASE MURRAY, Iraq – From this base in insurgent country south of Baghdad, there are no doubts that the U.S. decision to pour 30,000 additional troops into the fight has had an effect.
Before the 3rd Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade arrived in mid-June, the area around Patrol Base Murray was known as the Triangle of Death — a safe haven for Al Qaeda in Iraq to ambush Shiites, launch mortar and rocket attacks into the Green Zone and rig car bombs, homicide vests and other weapons for use in the capital.
Today, commanders point to the sharp drop in Baghdad attacks — down in August to a quarter of what they had been, according to the top commander Gen. David Petraeus — as evidence of their effectiveness.
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"Our job was to stop the flow of accelerants to Baghdad," Lt. Col. Ken Adgie, commander of the 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, said Monday, referring to bombs, bullets and fighters that accelerate the conflict.
"Take a look. Have the number of incidents in Baghdad slowed? It's working," he said.
More than just adding more boots on the ground, Petraeus' strategy called for the establishment of smaller combat outposts like Patrol Base Murray to encourage soldiers to get to know the local population and get closer to the insurgency.
The base was built right on "Route Gnat" — the only paved road from the Arab Jabour area into Baghdad. Many of the dirt roads have been shut down, said Brig. Gen. Jim Huggins, the 3rd Division's operational commander for the region.
"It's allowed us to set up a blocking line to interdict the accelerants on the way in — explosives, suicide vests, even fighters — and that's being reflected in what we are seeing in Baghdad," he said.
"You can't always defend from the goal line."
Petraeus is due to report next week to Congress on how the strategy is working, how much longer he needs the extra troops and when Iraqi forces will be ready for their own defense.
Though the progress in Arab Jabour has been encouraging, Adgie cautioned that the fight against insurgents is not like a conventional battlefield where victory — or defeat — are apparent.
"We attack them and they just push away," he said. "But they no longer have free reign."
Still, attacks come regularly against U.S. forces and civilians.
Adgie said he received a report Monday that Al Qaeda in Iraq beheaded a 12-year-old boy in the middle of the street because his father was cooperating with the Americans.
"That's the level of evil we're dealing with here," he said.
Huggins took the short helicopter flight to Patrol Base Murray from Baghdad's Green Zone with the Baghdad provincial governor and other Iraqi officials, to sit them down with the local leaders who have been helping Adgie's men.
The U.S. goal is to have locals work directly with the Iraqi government on security and other matters, which will allow for American troops to push farther out in the field.
A convenient side-effect of the increased number of U.S. combat operations has been to make Al Qaeda more desperate for recruits. So the extremists resort to violent means to coerce people to join them, which has pushed more local Iraqis to the American side, Huggins explained.
Bases like Murray have also helped provide a sense of security, so people are more willing to cooperate, he said.
Retired Iraqi army Brig. Gen. Mustafa al-Jubouri leads a group of what the U.S. calls "Concerned Local Citizens" — Iraqis who have come forward to help provide security in the area and perform tasks like guarding schools and mosques.
Some of them may have been former insurgents who broke with Al Qaeda or other groups.
Most important has been the intelligence that al-Jubouri's followers are able to provide, Adgie said.
"When we got here Al Qaeda was able to walk right past us — we didn't know they were Al Qaeda, it's not like they had a uniform," he said. "But now we do know them, and we can hunt them down."
On the sidelines of the meeting outside the main building at Patrol Base Murray — one of Uday Hussein's former residences — al-Jubouri was reflective about cooperating with the Americans, suggesting it was a matter of expedience where one's enemy's enemy is a friend.
"It's not working with them, it's cooperation with them to take on the insurgents," he said.
Complete coverage is available in FOXNews.com's Iraq Center.