Battle Position Murray, Baghdad Province: While in the Arab Jabour region, The Long War Journal had the opportunity to interview General Mustaffa, the architect of the Concerned Citizens movement. Mustaffa has recruited 537 volunteers, and works closely with the 1st Battalion, 30th Regiment, 2nd Brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division to secure the region. His Concerned Citizens turn over weapons caches, find and dismantle IEDs, man checkpoints, provide intelligence for US forces on al Qaeda in Iraq cells, and battle al Qaeda when attacked.
Mustaffa was a captain in Saddam Hussein’s army. He served as an administrative officer in Baghdad, reported Lieutenant Colonel Ken Adgie, the commander of the 1/30. While Arab Jabour is predominantly Sunni, Mustaffa is married to a Shia and has given one of his four sons a Shia name.
Mustaffa has looked beyond the security piece in Arab Jabour and has reached out for assistance from the Iraqi National Team, a nongovernmental organization in Baghdad. The Iraqi National Team provides humanitarian aid in Arab Jabour, where the national and provincial governments have no presence.
Mustaffa and his officers and men are by and large trusted by the American soldiers serving in Arab Jabour. To conduct the meeting and interview with Mustaffa, Adgie, the interpreter, and I entered the school with Adgie’s personal security detachment, a fire team of four armed soldiers. The personal security detachment remained outside the office as Adgie, the interpreter, and I removed our body armor. Mustaffa and his men were armed with pistols.
Adgie refers to Mustaffa as the “Lion of Arab Jabour” and praises his efforts to build the Concern Citizens. Adgie and numerous officers and enlisted at Patrol Base Murray have seen the dramatic improvement in security in just three short months since engaging in Arab Jabour.
Mustaffa has begun to receive national attention in Iraq. Prior to the interview, Mustaffa conducted an interview with a television crew from the Al Rashid network.
LWJ: What motivated you to organize against al Qaeda in Iraq?
Mustaffa: They are criminals. There is no law, no order here. No system of government. We needed to organize against al Qaeda to protect ourselves.
LWJ: What has al Qaeda in Iraq done to the people of Arab Jabour?
Mustaffa: They killed our sons, ruined our infrastructure, displaced families, used sectarian violence against the people. They killed our electricians, our engineers, the technicians that run our water pumps and [water filtration] plant. They cooperated with foreign powers, with Syria and Iran, to kill us.
LWJ: Did al Qaeda in Iraq attempt to enforce Shariah?
Mustaffa: When al Qaeda announces its Islamic State, it forced people to obey their godless laws. The people of Arab Jabour would not submit to this. Al Qaeda are godless criminals.
LWJ: What support do your Concerned Citizens need from the central government to restore order to Arab Jabour?
Mustaffa: The central government hasn’t dealt with us. There is no provincial government. Every time we try we have been rebuffed. All of the help and support has been from the Coalition. With support like ammunition, we can destroy al Qaeda. We believe al Qaeda is 70 percent finished here. The central government does not want to establish security here. They have an agenda with foreign powers.
LWJ: Do you believe that, given time, reconciliation is possible?
Mustaffa: We certainly hope so.
LWJ: How do you envision the Concerned Citizens integrating into the Iraqi Security Forces? Should they become part of the Army, the National Police, or local police?
Mustaffa: There are two projects that should be undertaken. Many of the Concerned Citizens don’t have the ability to be in the military. They should become part of the local police. Those who served in the Army prior [to the fall of Saddam Hussein’s rule] should be allowed back in the Army.
LWJ: Do you want an Iraqi Army presence in Arab Jabour?
Mustaffa: Yes, we hope so. We will create the stability so the Iraqi Army can come in and then they can establish themselves here.
LWJ: Do you have plans to expand the Concerned Citizens beyond where you have created this security zone?
Mustaffa: Yes, we hope so. But right now we do not have the ability to expand due to a lack of ammunition and al Qaeda’s strength in some areas.
Posters from the Iraqi National Team NGO are plastered on walls throughout Arab Jabour. Click to view.
LWJ: How has the Iraqi National Team helped the people of Arab Jabour.
Mustaffa: The Iraqi National Team assists the people of Arab Jabour by providing needed food and water. They rebuild homes, repair the water services and are helping with our schools. We are grateful for all of the help the Iraqi National Team has provided us in Arab Jabour.
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