HAQLANIYAH, Iraq -- Iraqi Police and U.S. Marines and detained seven suspected insurgents during a four-day Iraqi Police dragnet through the city of Haqlaniyah, Feb. 28 through March 3, 2007.
The cordon and searches netted 88 Iraqi men who were screened and questioned by Iraqi Police, the largest amount of suspects in a four-day period since Golf Company of the Hawaii-based 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment arrived in the Haditha “triad” - which includes Haditha, Haqlaniyah and Barwanah, in September 2006.
Haqlaniyah is the gateway for traffic and supplies into the “triad” region and has long been suspected to be a meeting place for high-level insurgents - “which is why it’s so important to have a competent Iraqi Police presence to keep a close watch on individuals and supplies coming into the region,” said Capt. Perry Waters, Company Commander for the battalion’s Golf Company.
The four-day operation was “100 percent” driven by the Iraqi Police force, according to Waters, a 32-year-old from Fredericksburg, Texas.
“The (Iraqi Police) pretty much ran the show,” said Waters. “They were able to use their (intelligence gathering) circles and intimate knowledge of the area to pinpoint known and suspected insurgents.”
Of the approximately 88 civilian males screened and questioned by the Iraqi Police, seven were detained and held for attacks on Coalition Forces and Iraqi Security Forces, 30 were turned over to Iraqi Police from the neighboring city of Haditha for further questioning and 51 were released after initial questioning.
“This whole thing started when we had a local citizen come and volunteer information on local insurgent cells,” said Waters. “We bounced that info off of the chief of police here and he basically corroborated all the info this person gave us. That’s what started this whole drag-net.”
According to Waters and a Haqlaniyah Iraqi Police officer, this operation showed the progress being made in this city on two levels - the community is starting get more involved with helping the Marines and Iraqi Police eradicate the local insurgency and the local Iraqi Police force is taking steps to take the city back from both insurgents and Coalition Forces.
While the Haqlaniyah Iraqi Police are only two months old, they have received dozens of questions from locals showing interest in joining but are still hesitant due to threats from insurgents.
One Iraqi Police officer from Haqlaniyah, who joined the police force in the past eight weeks, is expected to be named chief of police for the city, which sits on the banks of the Euphrates River in western Al Anbar Province.
The future chief of police, who prefers to remain nameless for security reasons, is an 18-year veteran of the former Iraqi Special Security Forces under Saddam Hussein’s regime. During that time he attended numerous schools and training programs that coincide with his new role in the Iraqi Police Force.
“The first, last and most important reason for me joining the Haqlaniyah police is to secure the city and provide a stable and peaceful environment for families and businesses,” said the future chief who has lived in Haqlaniyah for more than 35 years. “I want a city where kids can play and go to school safely and a place where we can take local businesses to the next level.”
The former Iraqi Special Security Force officer has already confronted Waters and other on the battalion staff on his plans to rebuild the city infrastructure and start providing more public services to the community.
He recognizes that rebuilding Haqlaniyah into the “peaceful community” he remembers before Operation Iraqi Freedom will take time, patience and hard work. For the time being, he is solely focused on building up the local Iraqi Police to provide a secure city for his neighbors.
“Right now the insurgents are telling people that if they join the Iraqi Police they will loose their head,” said the future chief of police through an interpreter. “If we want to recruit more Iraqi Police, we need to get rid of the insurgents first. Once we have eliminated the insurgency here people will be eager to join the Iraqi Police. But right now they fear for the safety of their families if they join.”
With this latest operation, the city is one step closer to making the citizens feel it’s safe to join the police force, according to Waters.
“This is huge,” said Waters. “It’s what I’ve been waiting for almost six months now. Two months ago, we didn’t have any Iraqi Police in Haqlaniyah, now we have four who grew up here. It starts to grow from there. The insurgent’s days in Haqlaniyah are numbered.”
2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment is part of Regimental Combat Team 2, a Marine Corps command responsible for more than 26,000 square miles and 5,500 Marines, Sailors and Soliders in Iraq’s Al Anbar Province.