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A new mayor and a newly independent Iraqi army battalion are among the things American military officials in Ramadi are pointing to as signs of improving conditions in the insurgent-plagued city west of Baghdad.

The new mayor, Latif Obaid Ayadah, moved into his office at the Joint Coordination Center and has begun meetings with American and Iraqi troops to discuss security and reconstruction projects. Among the discussions were “various projects for the future of Ramadi, including the establishment of city district leaders, opening a courthouse and prison, as well as proposals for improving sewer systems, city parks and street sanitation,” according to a military news release.

At nearly the same time, Iraqi and American officials said, the 2nd Battalion, 1st Brigade, 7th Iraqi Army Division was given “independent” status for taking charge of military operations in western Ramadi on Monday.

According to officials from the U.S. Army’s Germany-based 1st Armored Division, it becomes the third battalion in the 1st Brigade, 7th Iraqi Army Division to assume control over an area of the city during the past five months. Several times before, American troops have had to disband or transfer Iraqi units that were ineffective in the area.

But U.S. military trainers say this unit has progressed beyond the capabilities of previous troops.

“They’ve been performing magnificently. … We’re already seeing positive things happen in the battle space,” said Marine Lt. Col. James Bailey, the Military Transition Team leader overseeing the battalion. “It means progress for the city of Ramadi and Iraqi security forces.”

Marines from the 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment have been responsible for training the Iraqi units in the area.

To be sure, Anbar province — of which Ramadi is the capital — continues to be one of the most violent stretches of territory in Iraq. Over the past few days, at least nine soldiers and Marines have been killed in Anbar.


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