Capt. Lyn Graves, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
Allawimahmood, Iraq – The Allawimahmood muktar wants Iraqi security forces to stop vehicles and check for weapons. He tells the Americans visiting his home that it is fair to check everyone, even muktars and sheikhs.
Coalition forces visiting local villages have the job of gathering information from respected village leaders like the muktar, a position similar to that of a mayor. Establishing relationships with the Iraqi people at the neighborhood level is vital to ensure the security of Iraq.
“This is like being a cop on a beat, getting to know the people in your area of operations, getting to know the leaders, and being there for them to know you, to build a relationship,” said 1st Lt. Yukitoshi Murasaki, platoon leader in Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division.
“Also, like a detective, we try and find insurgent activity, know how the insurgents think and what motivates them to act,” adds Murasaki, a Miami, Fla. native.
“Weapons are coming from somewhere and getting to Hawija. We want to encourage the Iraqi security forces to check all the cars and look for suspicious activity.”
Encouraging the Iraqis to take a more prominent role in safeguarding their jurisdictions is a significant part of returning areas of operations to the Iraqi security forces.
“We turn over the areas and stay around, but take a much lower profile,” explained Murasaki.
Coalition forces like Murasaki’s platoon often learn that local leaders want the Soldiers to stay longer and like to see them visit.
“Local leader engagement helps to bring greater insight into what is going on than we would otherwise have,” said Staff Sgt. Tomas Hernandez, of Jerome, Idaho.
Talking to local leaders like the village muktar in Allawimahmood, a predominantly Kurdish village close to the Khabaz oil fields northwest of Kirkuk, provides coalition forces with invaluable information in the war against terror.
“When we visit some villages, sometimes people will come to us and want to give information and to stop violence, information we would not get if we had not been there and made ourselves available to listen to them,” adds Murasaki. The muktar tells Murasaki that he welcomes the Soldiers into his village and wants to work together to make life better for his people.
“The more difficult we make things for the insurgency to operate, the less harm they can do to these peaceful communities,” said Murasaki.