FALLUJAH, Iraq – Michael J. Totten is an independent journalist reporting on the war in Iraq. Here is a portion of his latest journal entry provided exclusively for FOXNews.com.
At the end of 2006 there were 3,000 Marines in Fallujah. Despite what you might expect during a surge of troops to Iraq, that number has been reduced by 90 percent. All Iraqi Army soldiers have likewise redeployed from the city. A skeleton crew of a mere 250 Marines is all that remains as the United States wraps up its final mission in what was once Iraq's most violent city.
“The Iraqi Police could almost take over now,” Second Lieutenant Gary Laughlin told me. “Most logistics problems are slowly being resolved. My platoon will probably be the last one out here in the Jolan neighborhood.”
“The Iraqi Police in Jolan are very good,” Second Lieutenant Mike Barefoot added. “Elsewhere in Fallujah they're not as far along yet. Theoretically we could leave the area now and they would be okay, except they would run out of money.”
There's more to the final mission than keeping the Iraqi Police solvent, however. The effort is focused on the Police Transition Teams. Their job is to train the Iraqi Police and bring them up to international standards so the locals can hold the city together after the last Americans leave.
A senior Marine officer whose name I didn't catch grilled some of his men during a talk in the Camp Fallujah chow hall after dinner.
“Do you trust the Iraqi Police?” he said to a Marine who works on one of the teams.
“No, sir,” the Marine said without hesitation. That was the only acceptable answer. This was a test, not an inquiry.
“Why not?” the officer said.
“Because they're not honest,” the Marine said.
“What do the Iraqi Police watch?” the officer said. “What are they looking at on a daily basis?”
“Us,” said several Marines in unison.
“They will emulate you, gents,” the officer said. “They. Will. Emulate you. Why? Because we came over here twice and kicked their ass. I do not trust the Iraqi Police today. Our job is to get them up to speed. They don't need to be up to the standard of Americans. But they do need to be better than they are right now.”
The Marine Corps runs the American mission in Fallujah, but some of the Police Transition Team members are Military Police officers culled from the Texas National Guard. “We're like the red-headed stepchild of units,” one MP told me. “We're from different units from all over Texas, as well as from the Marine Corps.”
One Texas MP used to be a Marine. “I decided I would rather defend my state than my country,” he said jokingly. “But here I am, back in Iraq.”
After I adjusted my embed to focus specifically on Police Transition Teams, I was nearly surrounded by young men from Texas. Many seemed to instinctively understand Fallujah's infamous provincial “nationalism.”
“Fallujah pride is like Texas pride,” I heard from several MPs who, unlike Iraqis from Baghdad, didn't think that was a bad thing.