The Hashd Sha'abi has a number of formations in areas where the fighters are drawn from locals. One example is the Haditha Brigade in the west of Anbar province, which is officially affiliated with the Hashd Sha'abi Commission but is tied operationally with the Jazeera operations command of the Iraqi army. Haditha stands out in the wider western Anbar region as it did not fall to the Islamic State. On 20 February 2020, I conducted an interview with the Haditha Brigade media about the group's history. Any parenthetical insertions in square brackets are my own.
Q: Can you talk about the history of the Haditha Brigade? For example when was the Haditha Brigade formed and what are its origins exactly? In which battles has it participated? Is the brigade currently affiliated with the Hashd Sha'abi Comission? Sometimes people speak about the 'tribal Hashd' in Anbar. What is the difference between it and the formations of the Hashd Sha'abi and is the brigade considered part of the 'tribal Hashd'?
A: In the name of God the Compassionate, the Merciful:
"And prepare for them what you can from force and tying of horses by which you may terrify the enemy of God and your enemy and others besides them whom you do not know but God knows. And whatever you spend in the path of God will be repaid to you and you will not be wronged"- al-Anfal 60.
The Hashd Sha'abi in the Haditha district was formed as a result of the unusual circumstances that this town went through and after the withdrawal of the security forces from the towns and the Da'esh [Islamic State] organization's seizure of them in the provinces of Ninawa and Salah al-Din and Diyala and the western towns of the province of Anbar and their approach to the town of Haditha. The sons of the town of Haditha came out, driven by their zeal for their land and honour, bearing what they could simple arms and equipment, driven by true intentions and standing shoulder to shoulder to fight the Da'esh organization and not allow it to enter the town however much that might cost in terms of sacrificing what is precious with their blood, in sacrifice for their dignity and the honour of their children and honour of their women. It was then that they found the security forces of those affiliated with the Jazeera Operations Command standing alongside them fighting with them so the blood of the sons of the tribes in this town should be mixed with the blood of those affiliated with the security forces in the trench of steadfastness upon which the dreams of Da'esh to enter the town of steadfastness have been destroyed until this day of ours.
Stages of Formation:
In the beginning there was no name for this force for it was an embodiment of fighting groups that God willed to be a beginning for the steadfastness of the town of Haditha and after resisting and stopping the advance of the Da'esh organization and taking control of the position and distributing the sectors to the fighting groups. A commission was formed in the name of the Hashd Sha'abi Commission in the Haditha district led by Sheikh Awad Sa'id Falih Asman al-Jughaifi and he was assisted by Sheikh Daham Hussein Dumaithar al-Jughaifi and it became an official commission connected with the Hashd Sha'abi for Anbar province.
Salaries were disbursed for the force that defended the town of Haditha for the month of January 2014 and whose names came within the administrative order no. 106 and whose number reached 784 fighters. And after that the agreement of the prime minister was obtained to disburse the salaries of 400 fighters designated for the fighters of the town of Haditha.
And on date 11 October 2015 the executive order was issued to form a control base for the tribal Hashd in Anbar province- no. 438- led by the Lieutenant General Rashid Falih Muhammad Zhahir al-Halfi and that the Haditha Brigade should be within this formation and we continue to operate until now within these contexts and orders that have been issued from the control base and its link in operations is with the Jazeera operations command.
On 6 December 2015 the orders were issued by the Hashd Sha'abi command for Anbar province to organize the fighters of the Hashd Sha'abi in Haditha district in the form of a brigade under the name of the 'Haditha Brigade of the Hashd Sha'abi' and with the composition of three regiments, a commandos squadron and a base squadron. And indeed the brigade and its units were formed according to the military contexts and it was organized to the squadron level and the training began in accordance with the programs and military contexts implemented in the Iraqi armed forces with the focus on basic military training and special combats.
The fighters were inserted into basic courses in the Ain al-Assad base- the headquarters of the seventh division. And after completion of the training they were equipped with military guide and entrusted with the obligations that serve the security of the town and its steadfastness.
The training was not limited to the basic courses in the Ain al-Assad base of the seventh division, but rather the Jazeera operations command continued to insert groups of the fighters affiliated with the brigade into additional courses to raise the combat level of the fighters in the Jazeera operations command and the training continues with the direct supervision of the Major General Qasim al-Muhammadi the commander of the Jazeera operations and specialist officers of the command and officers of the Haditha Brigade of the Hashd Sha'abi.
The Battles the Hashd Sha'abi Has Waged
The Hashd Sha'abi of the sons of the town of Haditha has had the major role in resisting the repeated attacks of the terrorist Da'esh organization, the assault on and liberation of many of the villages upon which the Da'esh organization intruded, and foiling many of the infiltrations of this organization, and it is as follows:
The Stage of Defending Against the Attacks
1. Resisting the attack that targeted the immediate emergency aid point when 13 vehicles of the enemy were destroyed and 2 explosive rigged vehicles were neutralized.
2. Resisting the attack that targeted the main checkpoint at the entrance to the town of Barwana.
3. Resisting the attack on the western screen on date 18 Ramadan.
4. Resisting the attack on the al-Mashtur screen in the Barwana sub-district.
5. Resisting the attack on the western screen on 3 January 2016 as 18 vehicles of the enemy were destroyed and a heavy vehicle of bulldozer type- rigged with explosives and armoured- was neutralized.
6. Resisting the attack on the al-Sha'i and al-Sakran al-Gharbiya area on 3 January 2016 and the fighting continued for nine days in which al-Sha'i and al-Sakran were liberated after destroying the attacking force entirely and they numbered more than 800 fighters and their vehicles, which numbered more than 60, were destroyed.
7. Resisting the attack on the western screen in al-Khasfa on 25 February 2016.
The Stage of the Battles of Liberation
And after resisting all the repeated attacks by this Da'eshi organization, the groups of the Hashd Sha'abi and with the aid of the security forces began to liberate many of the villages around the town of Haditha and they are as follows:
1. Liberating the sub-district of Barwana entirely after the Da'esh organization seized it for around 45 days, on date 13 September 2014.
2. Liberating the village of al-Khasfa from the control of Da'esh on date 22 November 2015.
3. Liberating the village of al-Khafajiya.
4. Liberating the village of al-Mashtur on date 9 January 2015.
5. Liberating the village of al-Buhaiyat.
6. Liberating the village of Alus.
7. Liberating the village of al-Rab'i and the villages neighbouring it.
8. Liberating the villages of al-Dulab.
9. Participation in liberating the road connecting between the Haditha district and the district of Hit.
10. Liberating the village of al-Kasiriyat.
11. Liberating the villages of al-Sakra and al-Zawiya on date 7 January 2016 [sic: 2017, h/t Shelly Kittleson].
The Stage of Neutralizing the Infiltrators to the Interior of the District
The enemy has a number of evil methods it began to use against our town after all the attacks against the town of Haditha failed and the infiltrations were as follows:
1. Neutralizing the infiltrators to the al-Wasta area and they numbered 7 and they were all killed, while 7 martyrs were martyred during the neutralization on date 1 August 2014.
2. Neutralizing the infiltrators to the Martyrs neighbourhood in the al-Haqlaniya sub-district and in the battle 2 of the hero martyrs were martyred.
3. Neutralizing the infiltrators to the municipal office area of al-Haqlaniya in the al-Haqlaniya sub-district and all the infiltrators were killed and they were 4 in number. And 2 of the hero martyrs were martyred during the battle.
4. Neutralizing an armoured vehicle after it crossed the Haditha dam body and its crew, which numbered 5 persons, was killed.
5. Neutralizing infiltrators to the Haditha dam and the infiltrators, who were 3 in number, were killed.
6. Neutralizing infiltrators to the Asphalt factor of the municipal office area. They were 3 attackers in number and they were killed on date 31 October 2016.
7. Neutralizing infiltration to the village of al-Khafajiya affiliated with the al-Haqlaniya sub-distrit and they were 2 infiltrators in number and they were killed.
8. Neutralizing infiltration to one of the guard points in the western screen which led to the martyrdom of 2 of the fighters and the wounding of 3 fighters and the infiltrators, who were 3 in number, were killed.
9. Neutralizing infiltrators to the al-Tin neighbourhood on the peripheries of the town which led to the martyrdom of one of the fighters of our brigade: the first regiment.
Surprise Obligations for the Enemy (Preventive Operations)
The leaders of the heroic Hashd Sha'abi have not been pacified against the crimes of the terrorist Da'esh as planning has been ade and plans put in place for preventive operations in the depth of the enemy and they have inflicted losses on it as follows:
1. Carrying out surprise raid on a place where the enemy was present in the village of al-Sakra.
2. Carrying out a surprise raid on a place where the enemy was preset in the village of al-Zawiya.
3. Carrying out a surprise raid on the village of Jatiba (al-Mamasiya).
The Haditha Brigade of the Hashd Sha'abi is considered one of the formations of the Hashd Sha'abi command for Anbar province affiliated with the Iraqi Hashd Sha'abi Commission. As for the tribal Hashd, it is an irregular force formed after the liberation of the towns.*
Q: In total what is the number of martyrs approximately?
A: The number of martyrs is 150 martyrs.
Q: And most of the members of the brigade are from the al-Jughaifa tribe?
A: The majority are from the al-Jughaifa tribe and the Albu Nimr tribe. And there are a few from members of the other tribes.
*(Note)- i.e. Newer formations presently known as 'tribal Hashd' and not affiliated with the Hashd Sha'abi Commission, unlike earlier formations such as the Haditha Brigade that came under the 'tribal Hashd' control base a while ago and are affiliated with the Commission.