The base recently hosted the muqtars (village political leaders) and sheiks (tribal leaders) in the area to the base to discuss concerns in the region. Sitting around one table were approximately 30 Arabs, Kurds, and Turkimen—an accomplishment in itself.
The primary concern for the leaders was getting a reliable source of water. There are still a few villages in the area that do not have a good well, and this was the top priority. The next big issue was access to electricity. It is interesting to note that among the villages in this region is Davac, a Sunni village which was a favorite of Saddam. While it is not in as bad of shape as some of the villages, it nonetheless shared many of the same problems as its neighboring village, demonstrating once again how run down much of the country had become.
The officers also view the meeting as something of a neighborhood watch” group. Lt. Col. Miller thanked the attendees for their help in making the region more secure by not tolerating insurgents in their villages. And the region is safer: since the major firefight just over a month ago, the base has not been subject to a mortar or rocket attack, and there have been fewer IEDs on the roads.
The meeting provided the opportunity for me to meet one of the Turkimen muqtars. As I understand it, the Turkimen are simply Turks who remained in Iraq after the borders were drawn by the British. If you ask them, they still claim to be Turkish. The muqtar from the Turkimen village was an old man, who spoke Arabic, Kurdish, and Turkish—and probably a little English, although he doesn’t let on to that. He has a quick wit, and a devilish grin. He was a clear minority in the room, but you would not have known it from how he handled himself.
There was one muqtar in attendance who was a Hajji. This is not a derogatory term (or a reference to the sidekick from Johnny Quest) but rather an honorific used by the locals to denote that he had completed a Hajj to Mecca. This particular Hajji had it in his mind that I was Iraqi (my beard is a great asset), and kept trying to talk to me in Arabic despite my responses in English.