KIRKUK, Iraq – When an Iraqi factory worker found a bag containing what he believed to be IED making materials, he knew who to call – the Iraqi Police station in Taza.
Such a call would seem to be a matter of course for Americans, but in Iraq this kind of action demonstrates a positive step forward for the Iraqi people’s confidence in their police.
“What I like is citizens seeing something out of place and calling the local Iraqi Police. It has taken awhile for local people to trust the coalition forces and the Iraqi Security Forces, but we are starting to see the benefits of the investments in time we have made,” said 2nd Lt. Jeremy Fox of 1st Platoon, Company A, 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division.
In visits to two towns in the Kirkuk region of north central Iraq, Fox and his platoon saw first-hand the progress made by the Iraqi Police and Army, and the corresponding trust given by the Iraqi people.
While patrolling the Taza marketplace with local Iraqi Police, coalition forces assisted the IP with handing out flyers providing local citizens with telephone numbers and requests for support.
“Passing out flyers works. The flyers have local telephone numbers that people can call to report trouble and some of these calls have resulted in vital intelligence gathered, some weapons caches found and IED identification,” said Staff Sgt. Brian Anderson of Rochester, NY.
Gathering information on possible insurgent activity, and at the same time building relationships with the Iraqi people, works in outlying areas the same as it does in town.
After leaving Taza, Fox’s platoon and an Iraqi Army company traveled to Marimbak, a farming village of about 500 Sunni Arabs. Fox and an Iraqi Army leader met with the village muktar, a local official similar to a mayor, who talked about politics and how he and his village have come to rely on the IA and IP.
“The more we see them relying on the Iraqi Security Forces, that’s the direction we want to be moving in,” said Fox. “We are trying to set them up for self-sufficiency and self-governance, and all this is geared towards us handing over maneuver space back to the Iraqis.”