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Robertson: Iraqis, U.S. work in tandem for assault

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CNN's Nic Robertson

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NEAR SAMARRA, Iraq (CNN) -- U.S. and Iraqi troops scoured areas around Samarra north of the Iraqi capital Friday searching for insurgents as part of Operation Swarmer.

CNN senior international correspondent Nic Robertson was embedded with troops in the area, visiting a joint command center and accompanying soldiers searching a farm.

Robertson discussed his journey in the war zone Friday with CNN anchor Soledad O'Brien.

ROBERTSON: We were taken to a farmhouse, where it was being searched by Iraqi and U.S. troops. We have seen these type of searches before. What made this different was the fact that the Iraqi army soldiers had armored Humvees. They were deployed with the U.S. troops. (Watch Robertson's trip to a Swarmer command center -- 1:49)

The commander there told us that the operation had been conducted with both troops together. The planning stages of the operation had been planned out together. He told us the way, when they approached the farmhouse, the Iraqi troops went in first to talk with the family there before the searching began.

We were also taken to a second location, a command post jointly manned by Iraqi and U.S. troops.

Again, the difference that we saw there from Iraqi troops we've seen on other operations, they were all in the same uniform, again, with the armored Humvees.

We also saw them operating in tandem with the U.S. troops, spotting vehicles using binoculars on the horizon, telling the U.S. troops to -- if they can -- bring in a helicopter to check the vehicle to see if it was leaving the area.

This was, from what we could see, a joint operation, perhaps more joint than those that we've seen in the past.

O'BRIEN: How long has this operation been in the planning?

ROBERTSON: It's been in the planning for over a month, we're told. Now Iraqi intelligence says that some of the people who were involved in blowing up that holy Shia shrine in the town of Samarra several weeks ago were from that area.

But U.S. commanders told us that the operation had been under planning before the attack on that particular shrine. They said that they had worked up from working with small groups of soldiers -- platoon level -- to do this joint brigade operation.

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