HIT, Iraq - -- In yet another step toward Iraqi sovereignty, U.S. Army soldiers with 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, recently teamed up with Iraqi Security Forces here for Operation Shurta Nasir (Police Victory).
Unlike previous operations, this one was both conceived and executed by the Iraqi Police themselves.
“Their leadership came to us with a plan,” said Army Capt. Mark A. Cobos, the joint coordination center’s officer in charge. “They knew exactly which bad guys they wanted to go after. [Brig. Gen. Hamid Ibrahim Jazaa] said his men were ready, so we let the IP’s take the lead.”
Hamid is the Hit-district police chief, an area which includes the city of Hit and other surrounding towns. He’s personally in charge of more than 750 IP’s.
“We’ve been planning this operation for about a year now,” Hamid said. “This city has been owned by terrorists for a long time. Many innocent civilians have died here; it’s time for those responsible to pay the price.”
U.S. Army Soldiers and members of the Iraqi Army cordoned off the entire city, establishing blocking points at strategic points of entry. Though not directly involved with the operation, their role was vital to the IP’s who were patrolling the streets and searching houses.
“Us tagging along with the IP’s would’ve defeated the purpose of preparing them to take over,” explained Cobos, a native of El Paso, Texas. “This is their show; we’re just getting ‘em ready.”
The goal of Operation Police Victory was to permanently establish an IP presence in the heart of what used to be a terrorist controlled city.
“These people are fed up with the insurgents,” Cobos said. “When we rolled into town, everyone was outside their houses – waving and giving us the thumbs up.”
Using tactics learned from Task Force 2-7’s police training team, the IP-led operation yielded the capture of several high-value targets, the discovery of multiple weapons caches and improvised explosive devices, the establishment of two new police stations and the re-acquisition of the city’s hospital.
“The IP’s are extremely effective, simply because they’re locals,” Cobos said. “Some of them have lived right down the street their entire lives. They know who belongs here and who doesn’t. It’s easy for them to point out the foreign freedom fighters.”
Jamal Sakin is one such example. He’s lived within the city limits for the past six years.
“The Americans won’t be here for long,” Sakin said. “We’ve got to stand up on our own two feet and win it ourselves – this is our fight.”
One of the ways terrorists discourage locals from joining the ISF is through a fear and intimidation campaign. Unfortunately, Sakin knows all too well about the “consequences” of joining-up.
“My little brother was kidnapped by the same people I’m after,” explained Sakin. “They’ve killed many of my friends and family members.”
Sakin doesn’t know if his brother is dead or alive, but one thing’s for sure – he won’t rest until those responsible are brought to justice and held accountable for their actions.
“There’s always hope,” Sakin said. “But even after, I will still return to my job and help others with the same problem. It’s every Iraqi citizen’s duty to re-build this area and make it beautiful again, just as it once was.”
Like Sakin, Hamid knows exactly what it’s like to lose a loved one. Both his son and brother were murdered by terrorists. But even so, Hamid doesn’t let the past weigh him down.
“There are heroes all around us,” Hamid said. “If I die, there are a thousand other Hamid’s who would step up, take my place and continue the fight.”
Per the suggestion of Army Lt. Col. Douglas C. Crissman, the commanding officer of Task Force 2-7, Hamid acted on his philosophy by taking to the city streets in broad daylight.
“Something like this hasn’t happened in more than a year,” Crissman said. “A week ago, it never would’ve been possible.”
Crissman and Hamid were also joined by the city’s mayor on their trip downtown. Together, they made their way through the market, stopping every so often to speak with local merchants and other samaritans. They also ventured down a street known by some, for obvious reasons, as "Bloody Cherry."
“A lot of people were nervous about going through with this,” explained Crissman. “Unless it was an emergency, the previous unit wouldn’t even drive down Cherry St. – much less walk it. But I wanted the people of Hit to see that its police, municipal and coalition leadership weren’t afraid.”
Through this public demonstration of faith in the city’s security, Crissman hopes to capitalize on the momentum of Operation Police Victory. He hopes Hamid, along with the rest of Hit’s citizens, can now move forward and look toward the future.
“When I see kids laughing and playing in the streets, it means the world to me,” Hamid said. “Our victory here will serve as an example to all of Iraq. We showed the world that the impossible happened. We’re back again – this is only the first step.”