Ghaith Abdul-Ahad’s recent article on Abu Abed of Ameriyah does not paint an accurate picture of him nor of Ameriyah. Mr. Abdul-Ahad spent several days as a guest of Abu Abed in his home, but failed to see the totality of the security framework established within Ameriyah. While the events he describes occurred, I believe he embellished on the facts and selectively ignored the contribution of the Iraqi Army and of my Soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment. His characterizations of Abu Abed as a “Sunni warlord” and the Forsan al-Rafidain as the “only authority inside” Ameriyah are completely off base.
The statement of a senior Sunni sheikh in Beirut, that this was just a way to prevent the army and police from entering the area, is absurd and reflects ignorance on the part of this Sheikh on the objectives of Abu Abed and other leaders within the Ameriyah community and the current situation there.
Abu Abed has demonstrated to me time and again that he is non-sectarian.
Some of his closest advisors and much of his Personal Security Detachment are Shia. He has been instrumental in encouraging approximately seventy Shia families to return to Ameriyah. His men regularly check on these families to ensure their safety.
Abdul-Ahad’s assertion that the Forsan are the only authority within Ameriyah is completely false. On the contrary they are part of a security network that also includes the 2nd Battalion, 1st Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division and the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment.
The Iraqi Army commander and I have established control measures to provide oversight over the Forsan’s activities. We developed a memorandum of agreement signed by myself, the Iraqi Army commander and Abu Abed that lays out how they will conduct operations to include provisions for detainees and authorized weapons. We have established a system to conduct investigations for any violations of the law. We investigate complaints, and at times I have disciplined members of the Forsan to include detaining one member for criminal activity. Abu Abed published a code of conduct for his men and on occasion has fired those that would not adhere to the published standards.
Abdul-Ahad also fails to mention the importance of local civil oversight on Abu Abed and his men. From the start, local civil leaders have been an important part of the Concerned Local Citizen movement in Ameriyah. If it was not for the endorsement of two local imams, I probably would have never agreed to work with Abu Abed.
The results of our efforts speak for themselves. We have not had a mortar or rocket attack within Ameriyah since July. Dead bodies used to litter the streets, but we have not had a murder reported since August. The last IED attack was on August 7th. Since that time, my battalion has suffered no casualties within Ameriyah, while 2/1/6 IA has had only one wounded Soldier.
With the increased security situation we have finally been able to provide essential services to the community. For the first time since 1-5 CAV deployed to Iraq last November, the beladiyah is routinely providing trash clean up. We have fixed numerous water pipes, pulled out destroyed car hulks and are working to clean out the sewer system. Likewise the local economy is gaining steam with over one hundred stores opening up the last two months.
Over time I have come to trust Abu Abed as a brother. Our men have fought together and in some cases died while fighting a common enemy that has no regard for the innocent civilians of Ameriyah. Abu Abed invited me into his home and showed me not only hospitality, but friendship and camaraderie. He has demonstrated to me that his goal is for the safety and security of the people of Ameriyah and has resisted attempts by outsiders to take credit and control of what he has been able to accomplish. He is an inspiring leader who demonstrates personal and moral courage on a daily basis. I am proud to call him my friend.
Lt. Col. Dale Kuehl
1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division
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