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Taking off the Armor in Anbar

3:12 PM, Jan 15, 2008 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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Christian Lowe reports at

RAMADI, Iraq -- In perhaps the most tangible recognition of the improving security here, top Marine commanders are on the verge of allowing grunts in the field to pare down their body armor, giving on-the-ground commanders new authority to strip certain components from the ever-increasing protective equipment load.

Speaking to in the crew compartment of a heavily armored, six-wheeled Cougar Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle on his way to a meeting with an influential sheik, the deputy commander for Marine forces in Iraq, Maj. Gen. John Allen, said the sharp decrease in attacks on U.S. forces, the increased security provided by local police and the positive influence of tribal leaders who now shun al Qaeda malcontents has lead his command to devise the latest equipment policy.

Allen says the decision will ultimately be left to the commanders on the ground, but this is a major accomplishment in a region that just a year ago was the epicenter of violence in Iraq. And the Marines are getting ready to hand the province back to the Iraqis--"We want to become tactically invisible over the next year," Maj. Gen. Allen told Lowe. It's all very impressive, and of course it was the Democratic victory in the 2006 election that made it all possible!