New outpost changing tactics in Narwan
NARWAN, Iraq — Ali Thavit’s bakery is doing a lot more business lately.
As construction progressed across the street at Combat Outpost Salie, soldiers began stopping at his store for his fresh-made bread.
Like other older Iraqis doing business in Narwan, Thavit said he supported the U.S. presence that officially moved in Thursday.
“It’s good for the people and it’s good for peace,” Thavit said.
Thavit’s conversation then turned to the same thing that every Iraqi at the nearby open market later mentioned: The city needs more water, electricity, medicine, school supplies and jobs.
Whether the U.S. can deliver on those items will dictate how welcome their presence will be, especially to younger Iraqis who expressed skepticism about the soldiers’ presence.
Leaders from the 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery say they want Narwan to have these basic services — but they want Iraqi political and tribal leaders to lead the efforts, backed by both U.S. and Iraqi government funding.
“We want a functional city council that coordinates its need and wants through the Qada (county) council,” said 1-10 commander Lt. Col. Mark Sullivan.
Three weeks ago, U.S. soldiers announced a meeting for local sheiks over loudspeakers. Over 75 showed up. The sheiks then pressed a do-nothing council to start performing, Sullivan said. They quickly responded by working on running a waterline through the town.
Soldiers already have donated water, medical help and school supplies; however, they must preserve security and build trust in this city of about 100,000 people before they can concentrate on government and economic woes.
On Nov. 9, U.S. forces arrested an Iraqi policeman accused of links to violent Shiite insurgents. Soon after, about 250 people showed up at Salie to protest the arrest.
Battalion officials spoke at Salie with three local sheiks about why they arrested the policeman.
“They went outside, explained it to them and dissipated the crowd,” said Maj. Luis Rivera, battalion executive officer.
Nevertheless, younger Iraqis wondered if the arrest was an indicator of things to come.
“If somebody shoots at you, will you know who shot you or will you arrest everybody?” Hayder Wared, 27, asked soldiers on patrol at the open-air market Wednesday.
“If someone shoots us, we’re not going to go on a rampage,” replied 1st Sgt. Thomas Dale, of Sanford, Fla., through an interpreter.
The Army would work with the townspeople and respect its customs, Dale added.
Wared said he didn’t believe the Army came to help but asked Dale for a job, along with a plea for water and other basic services for his town.
“If the U.S. Army gives us that, then I accept them,” Wared said.
Children followed the soldiers wherever they went during the market patrol Wednesday, asking for pens and water and wanting to touch the soldiers. But when they walked back to the base, the kids changed tactics.
“The kids love us, but at the same time they threw rocks at us,” said Sgt. Nicholas Tubeszewski of Milwaukee and 1-10’s Headquarters and Headquarters Battery.
It wasn’t the first rock attack. The soldiers usually just keep walking, but this time they came back and lined up along a berm. The children fled, but nearby adults began scolding and punishing the children.
“We may have just developed a new (tactical procedure),” Dale said. “We line up here and let the adults take care of the problem themselves.”