KARMAH, Iraq --
KARMAH, Iraq – In an act of defiance toward al Qaeda in Iraq, Karmah sheikhs and Marines with Task Force 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, recently held their first meeting since a suicide vest attack killed 20 local leaders and key tribal figures and three Marines June 26.
Lt. Col. Andrew R. Milburn, commanding officer, Task Force 1/3, and key staff of the battalion attended the meeting Aug. 20 to offer assistance to the Iraqis and build on the accomplishments of the unit they replaced.
Task Force 1/3 replaced Task Force 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, in late July, beginning a seven-month deployment to the greater Karmah area.
The meeting was a gesture of unity between the Iraqi government and Coalition forces, and a sign of defiance against those who still oppose the Government of Iraq.
Approximately 50 people were expected to attend the event at the Iraqi Army Base, but the presence of over 200 forced them to change the venue of the meeting to tents.
“The meeting involved passionate and sometimes heated discussions of security issues in the wake of the attack which had killed close relatives of many in the room,” said Milburn.
The meeting also provided an open forum for Iraqis to voice concerns to the sheikhs and Marines.
Some Iraqis voiced concerns about upcoming Iraqi elections and about relatives who have been detained, but overall the mood of Iraqis was strongly pro-coalition.
“The Marines have been our friends; we know that we can trust them” said the mayor of Karmah, whose predecessor was one of the Iraqis killed in the suicide attack.
Other issues and concerns addressed by the Sheikhs included upcoming nation-wide detainee releases, the impending dissolution of the Sons of Iraq, and concern over an eventual Marine withdrawal.
The meeting, with such a large turnout, showed the Iraqis willingness to form a stable government and work closely with Coalition forces despite AQI’s attempts to obstruct their efforts.