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June 22, 2008

Soldiers deliver toys to Iraqi girls’ school

Filed under: CentCom, children, good works, ME, MNF-I — Rosemary Welch @ 2:51 pm

by U.S. ARMY SGT Daniel Blottenberger
18th Military Police Brigade

CAMP VICTORY — When Iraqi Police and Coalition troops arrived at the Zainab Girls School in Hurriyah June 12, they were met by the smiling faces of more than 50 children and their caretakers in the Baghdad community. “This makes it all worth while,” said 1st Sgt. Thomas Gray, 64th MP Co., 18th Military Police Brigade, Multi-National Division – Baghdad, who is a native of Oxford, Conn., after boxes full of school supplies and toys were handed out to the grateful Iraqi children.

The Hurriyah IP brought toys and supplies to hand out to the children to help show the families of the area that IP were here to help protect and serve the community. “This event gives the IP an opportunity to interact with the people other than neighborhood patrols and checkpoint operations,” said Staff Sgt. Joseph Reinsburrow, squad leader, 64th Military Police Company, who is a native of Towanda, Pa.

Reinsburrow and his squad of military police Soldiers have been conducting police transition team (PTT) operations with the Hurriyah IP for eleven months now. The PTT Soldiers are military police who interact, train and advise IP personnel from the local police officer, or “shurta,” to the most senior leaders as they conduct their day-to-day missions.

The mission for the IP on this day was to hand out school supplies and toys to the local children, many of whom are orphans.“It is always a good feeling when you can make an Iraqi kid smile,” said 1st Lt. Geneva Arnold, platoon leader, 64th MP Co., who is a native of Tucson, Ariz. The IP handed out backpacks, school supplies and soccer balls to the children, who were ecstatic upon receiving the items from the policemen and MND-B Soldiers. The operation helped further the relationship between the locals and the IP.

“The citizens of Hurriyah are not afraid to come and talk to the IP,” said Sgt. Angel Villegas, 64th MP Co., who is a native of El Paso, Texas. “On normal operation days at the station, there are lines out the door of people coming to get assistance from the IP.” The PTT Soldiers said they felt the Hurriyah citizens recognize the Hurriyah IP as a force dedicated to bringing the rule of law to the community. “The citizens see the IP are just out there doing their job as IP,” said Reinsburrow.

In the past year of working with the IP, the PTT has seen them become a well-recognized force that brings law and order to their local community. “When we got here, the IP were just getting a foothold in the area,” said Villegas. “Now, they are a force capable of operating on their own.”

The Hurriyah IP showed their ability to protect their community during an uprising by criminal groups in Baghdad.“The IP stayed at their posts and manned the checkpoints during the uprising,” said Reinsburrow. Now that violence has decreased in the area, IP can focus on building better relationships within their local communities.“The IP are making a positive impact on their citizens’ lives,” said Arnold.

After all the school supplies and toys were handed out, the IP and MND-B Soldiers mounted back up in their vehicles to return to their daily mission of keeping the citizens of Hurriyah safe. The 64th MP Co. is deployed from Fort Hood, Texas, and is currently assigned to the 716th Military Police Battalion, 18th MP Bde., MND-B.

Staff Sgt. Joseph Reinsburrow holds an Iraqi child June 12 in Hurriyah, while Iraqi Police and Coalition forces hand out toys and school supplies to the local children. (Army photo by Sgt. Daniel Blottenberger).

Source: CENTCOM.

June 21, 2008

Improved security situation spurs reconstruction

Filed under: ag, CentCom, econ, humanitarian, ME, MNF-I, recon, security — Rosemary Welch @ 12:20 am

by Staff Sgt. Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service

BAGHDAD (June 15, 2008) — Improvements in overall security incidents and Iraqi forces continued to rise during the past week, enabling the central government and Coalition forces to begin progress in other areas vital to Iraq’s growth and sovereignty, a senior U.S. military official in Iraq said June 11. The country began to see a reduction in security incidents four weeks ago, marking the lowest levels since March 2004, Army Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner, a Multi-National Force – Iraq spokesman, told reporters at a Baghdad news conference. The Iraqi government is undertaking broader efforts to provide services that were not possible a year ago, such as reconstruction in Sadr City and the Shola neighborhoods as well as agricultural initiatives across the country, he said.

Electricity, water, cleaning, infrastructure restoration, and humanitarian aid projects are under way in Sadr City, said Tahseen al-Sheikhly, a civilian spokesman for Operation Fardh al-Qanoon, also known as the Baghdad Security Plan. These projects will help eliminate unemployment for Baghdad citizens, which is the cause of much of the violence in the city, Sheikhly said. [Possibly. Another cause may be that they HATE us? Hmm.] Now that security has been achieved, he added, the challenge is to provide the best services to the citizens, thereby raising the living and economic standards and infrastructure.

The Ministry of Electricity already has replaced light poles and restored power to the Sadr City hospital, he said. Officials also are establishing a solar power system in an effort to minimize future outages and continue growing employment opportunities. Agriculture also is benefiting from the low security-incident levels, Bergner said. The government’s date palm spraying campaign raised more than 33 percent from the previous year, covering more than 170,000 acres in Babil, Baghdad, Diyala, Karbala, Wasit provinces. Iraqi pilots flew 336 spraying sorties under difficult time constraints and challenging weather conditions using two government Mi-2 helicopters, Bergner continued. Baghdad and Diyala provinces were sprayed for the first time in six years, as security conditions since the war began hadn’t permitted spraying until now.

“Iraqi planning for the 2009 spraying campaign is already under way,” he added, noting the Ministry of Agriculture has appropriated some $20 million for helicopters and spare parts. “Progress in the agriculture sector and other improvements are a direct result of the security gains around Iraq and the growing capacity of Iraqi forces,” Bergner said. “The increasing support of Iraq’s citizens for the rule of law has been a key factor in reducing the levels of violence.”

Since the beginning of Operation Sawlat al-Fursan on March 25 in Basra and Operation A`Salaam on May 20 in Sadr City, Iraqi security forces have uncovered more than 500 weapons caches and stockpiles378 in Basra and 124 in Sadr City, Bergner said. More than 3,500 mortars, 1,600 rocket-propelled grenades, 600 improvised explosive devices, and 75 armor-piercing explosively formed projectiles were confiscated. “As Iraqi forces and Iraqi citizens cooperate to remove weapons from the hands of extremists before they can be used, their government is increasingly capable of being able to provide the services that Dr. Sheikhly talked about to the Iraqi people,” he said.

The increased security will “allow businesses to reopen, allow children to go back to school, revitalize the agriculture sector as they are in the process of doing, and allow Iraqis to rebuild their lives,” he said. “There is still much tough work ahead, but the steady progress in Basra, in Baghdad, and in Mosul is now providing better opportunities for the citizens of Iraq,” the general said.

Lance Cpl. Israel H. Aguirre pounds fists with an Iraqi child near Hit, Iraq. (Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Seth Maggard).

Source: CENTCOM.

Public works substation opens in Yarmouk

Filed under: CentCom, equip, ME, MNF-I, recon, security — Rosemary Welch @ 12:15 am

by Sgt. Paul Monroe
2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division

BAGHDAD (June 15, 2008) – Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, opened a public works substation in Yarmouk, a neighborhood in northwest Baghdad, June 14. The Yarmouk substation will serve the southeast Mansour District and provides workers a place to store equipment used for basic services, such as trash removal and sewage maintenance. “All of this was built from scratch” said 1st Lt. Nicholas Anderson, a civil military operations officer with the 4th Battalion, 42nd Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, operationally attached to the 2nd BCT, 101st Abn. Div.

Soldiers picked up where the Soldiers they replaced from 2nd “Patriot” Battalion, 32nd Field Artillery Regiment, 1st infantry Division, left off, who worked during their 15-month deployment to improve security and get essential services going. The unit went as far as hiring 50 workers to pickup trash in the Yarmouk area while funding for the substation was on hold. The Soldiers are working just as hard to take advantage of improved security and are striving to work on finishing the essential service projects the Patriot Battalion started. At the substation, they worked closely with local officials to build a permanent building with two offices. They also worked with contractors to install two trailers to provide workers with showers, a change room and a break room.

Iraqi army and MND-B Soldiers, along with members of the Yarmouk community and the assistant zone director who oversees the operation of the substation, attended the grand opening together, where a red ribbon was cut and attendees enjoyed Iraqi hamburgers afterward. The ceremony, however, did not mark the end of work for the substations, said Anderson, adding that the substation currently employs 53 Yarmouk residents with proposals to eventually increase that number to 100. “The equipment we have right now is under a rental agreement,” He added. “Coalition forces have rented those vehicles; we are expecting that (local officials) will take that over.”

The proposal stems from an agreement reached between coalition forces and local officials in September, he added. “We construct the site; we hire all the workers; we provide equipment for them” said Col. Louis Fazekas the Baghdad-6 governance team leader part of the embedded Provincial Reconciliation Team supporting the 2nd BCT, 101st Abn. Div., who explained it was part of the agreement. He said there is an expectation that local officials will hire the workers and purchase the equipment after one year.

Fazekas, a reservist from Mechanicsburg, Pa., deployed to Iraq in April 2007, has been in Iraq for 14 months. During that time, he has met with government officials to hash out the details of agreements such as this one. “I extended another year to try and see (the PWSS’) through,” said Fazekas. “It’s taking a little longer than we expected because the funding got delayed, but the funding is back on and things are moving ahead.” Originally, Strike brigade Soldiers planned to open four substations in Northwest Baghdad. The success of PWSS sites in the Adil and Ghazaliyah neighborhoods in northwest Baghdad has opened the possibility of opening additional substations.

No matter how long it takes to get the new substations built, Fazekas said he doesn’t plan to extend once he reaches the end of this tour. “Certainly, you fill some ownership and you want to stay involved,” he added, but also noted that he has full confidence in the ability of Soldiers – whether they are from the Strike Brigade or a follow-on unit – to continue progress. “The plan is there; it’s like a McDonalds franchise,” he said. “Now, it’s just a matter of picking sites and implementing what we’ve done at the others.”

Brig. Gen. Ghassan, commanding officer of the 5th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division, talks with a local television network to get the word out to the local populace about the establishment of the public works substation, June 14, in Yarmouk, a neighborhood in northwest Baghdad.

Source: CENTCOM.

May 14, 2008

Market opening spurs return of prosperity in Basra

Filed under: CentCom, CF, econ, ME, MNF-I, money, Peace, recon, school, security — Rosemary Welch @ 12:06 am

American Forces Press Service

BASRA, Iraq (May 7, 2008) – Citizens of Basra, the third-largest city in Iraq, celebrated the opening yesterday of a central market that demonstrated a return of peace and prosperity to an area that until recently was a stronghold of Shia militias. Schools closed early as families from the Jameat district gathered with local dignitaries, investors and media to watch the ceremonial opening of the Jameat Market, Multinational Corps Iraq officials reported.

“I am pleased to open the Jameat Market, which is an excellent example of the many projects contributing to the rebuilding of Iraq,” said Nigel Haywood, the British consular general in southern Iraq. “This project will help establish prosperity in Basra.” The market was built on the site where the Jameat police station was destroyed Dec. 25, 2006. The construction of the market was paid for by coalition reconstruction funds, in conjunction with the provincial council. Local Iraqis built the market which was completed on March 23 at a total cost of about $1 million, officials said.

Operation Charge of the Knights, a citizens group that works to restore peace and security to Basra, was credited with opening the market. The market is expected to open for business within 30 days, and vendors already have rented many stalls, officials said. Traditionally, markets are a community focal point in Iraqi culture, and officials are considering proposals for similar markets in other areas of Basra.

In other signs of progress in the area, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Tuesday completed renovations on a vocational technical center in the Zubair district of Basra province, coalition officials said. The $1.5 million project restored two facilities that included at least 24 workshops for vocational training. “Providing better educational opportunities will lead to better job opportunities,” said Army Lt. Col. Maura Gillen, a Multi-National Force – Iraq spokeswoman. “Vocational training is an investment in the economy, an investment in the development of a secure and prosperous Iraq.”

Also Tuesday, economic progress was seen in Baghdad when coalition forces awarded a small-business grant to boost fish farms in the area. Sheikh Jaffar of Khidr accepted the grant on behalf of a local fish farm association to buy two aerators for facilities in the Iskandariyah area, about 30 miles south of Baghdad. The aerators will be used in a holding pond, where 3 million young fish, or fingerlings, are scheduled for delivery later this month, officials said. Aerators provide oxygen to the pond to increase the survivability rate of the fingerlings, they explained.

Provincial reconstruction team representatives say it’s important for economic stimulus projects to be driven by Iraqis. “It’s important to help the Iraqis stimulate their own economy so they can have financial resources available to develop their own ideas and what they view as their own economic needs in their region,” said Army Maj. William Kerr of the 415th Civil Affairs unit attached to the 3rd Infantry Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team

Iraqi children watch the grand opening ceremonies of the Jameat Market in Basra. The children were released from school early to attend the community-building event. (Royal Navy photo by Leading Airman Jannine B. Hartmann).

Source: CENTCOM.

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May 2, 2008

Admiral: ISF fight well in Basra, Baghdad battles

Filed under: bombs, CentCom, CF, defenselink, jihad/ists, ME, MNF-I, recon, Violence — Rosemary Welch @ 12:04 pm

by Gerry Gilmore
DefenseLink.

BAGHDAD (April 28, 2008) – Iraqi security forces fought and performed well during recent battles against insurgents in the Iraqi cities of Baghdad and Basra, a senior U.S. military officer posted in Iraq said Monday. “We’ve had significant achievements in the fight against criminal groups over the last several weeks,” Navy Rear Adm. Patrick Driscoll, a Multi-National Force – Iraq spokesman, told reporters at a Baghdad news conference. “In Basra and Baghdad, Iraqi security forces have demonstrated bravery and professionalism and have made great strides in securing those areas where Iraqis were held hostage by those who oppose the rule of law and commit acts of violence that endangered innocent Iraqis.”

Iraqi and coalition security forces have cleared hundreds of roadside bombs and other deadly ordnance from the streets and byways of eastern Baghdad’s Sadr City sector, which houses 3 million Iraqi residents, noted Maj. Gen. Qassim Atta, an Iraqi military spokesman who accompanied Driscoll at the news conference. The roadside-bomb removal improves safety and security and also “alleviates the traffic jams and also provides more freedom to the citizens to move from one neighborhood to another in Baghdad,” Atta said.

About two weeks ago, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki directed his security forces to confront illegal militias in the southern city of Basra. The fighting in Basra then spread to eastern Baghdad, primarily in Sadr City, the home to thousands of followers of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Recent anti-insurgent efforts by Iraqi and coalition forces in Basra and eastern Baghdad have improved security in those two areas, Atta reported. The Iraqi government has earmarked more than $100 million for reconstruction needs in Basra and $150 million for redevelopment in Sadr City, the Iraqi general said.

Security in Basra has “improved dramatically over the last several weeks,” Driscoll observed, noting the Iraqi security forces have driven out criminals and have moved into the city’s neighborhoods to ascertain citizens’ needs. The Iraqi Interior Ministry reports that Basra’s citizens are returning to their marketplaces and the city’s children are going back to school, Driscoll said.

Capacity has been expanded at Basra’s civil military operations center. Basra’s CMOC team manages reconstruction efforts across the city and includes Iraqi, U.S., and other-agency participation, he said. “This will help facilitate the quick delivery of essential services, get business going again, and provide basic aid to the populace,” Driscoll explained. In addition, coalition forces are reprioritizing funding to accelerate Basra reconstruction projects such as sewage services, new street lighting, medical care and business incentives, Driscoll reported. Similar reconstruction operations are taking place in eastern Baghdad, he noted.

“Once again, this is the process we’re hoping for, where security is established, and then that will allow us to bring in the services I’ve mentioned and also let people get back to a normal life,” Driscoll said.

Source: CENTCOM.

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April 30, 2008

Cougar Squadron Kicks Off Raider Typhoon

Filed under: ME, MNF-I, security, SoI, Troops — Rosemary Welch @ 2:05 pm

Friday, 25 April 2008
By Staff Sgt. Brent Williams
1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division

FORWARD OPERATING BASE FALCON — Knocking on doors; greeting the family; talking about politics, the neighbors or just the weather over a hot cup of overly sweet chai – a pleasant side of operations for Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers who have operated in the southeastern Rashid District for the past eight months.

For Soldiers of “Fox,” Company F, 2nd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, attached to the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, MND-B, interpersonal relations, consensus information and the pictures they create are the biggest contributors to the safety and security of the citizens living in the Saha and Abu T’shir communities of southern Baghdad.

“We want to build a relationship to give the people a normal life – to bring the resources into the community,” said Lt. Col. Scott Reineke, commander, 2nd “Cougars” Sqdn., 2nd Stryker Cav. Regt., MND-B. “This is about building relations in Abu T’shir and Saha,” said Reineke to his commanders and staff officers during the unit’s final rehearsal for a three-phase operation that began, April 16, in support of 1st BCT’s Operation Raider Typhoon.

Stationed at Vilseck, Germany, and deployed as part of the “surge” force sent to reinforce security in support of MND-B and Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Stryker infantry unit, will handover their areas of responsibility [AOR] to the troops of 7th Sqdn., 10th Cav. Regt., 1st BCT, 4th Inf. Div., in May.

In the meantime, the Soldiers of Co. F, occupying a combat outpost in northeast Rashid, want to take a few more bad guys off the streets before they leave Baghdad. “We are conducting point operations to improve security for the people of Iraq,” said Capt. Kevin Ryan, commander, Co. F, 2nd Sqdn., 2nd Stryker Cav. Regt. “Once security improves, we can focus on improving the quality of life for the people of Abu T’shir and southeastern Rashid.”

The ongoing clearing operations are part of 1st “Raider” BCT’s first effort since assuming its mission, April 13, to deny terrorists and criminal elements a safe haven in the area that is home to approximately 1.2 million citizens in Baghdad. The three-phased operation is reminiscent of the same work that the squadron has undertaken since the unit assumed responsibility for the area in August, said Ryan, a native of Quincy, Mass., and a graduate of the Citadel Military Academy, S.C.

Soldiers conducted pinpoint raids, April 16-17, acting on military intelligence and information from Sons of Iraq (Abna al-Iraq), to capture some of MND-B’s most wanted terrorists and criminals, said Ryan, who is on his third deployment to Iraq.

The units then transitioned into the second phase of their operations, conducting ongoing atmospherics in the neighborhoods, working with the SoI, the sheiks, and members of the local community, to gather data with the intent to build better relations with the predominately Shia and mixed Sunni-Shia communities, he explained. “People who are sitting on the fence, and don’t know which way to go, will go our way just because we talked with them,” Ryan explained. “If we do this right, we will build relationships with the people which will empower them to be able to keep these bad guys from coming back into their neighborhoods.”

Conducting census operations, checkpoint inspections, joint patrols, combined operations and traffic control points with Iraqi security forces is nothing out of the ordinary for the Stryker Soldiers, said Sgt. 1st Class Roberto Huie, a platoon sergeant assigned to Co. F, 2nd Sqdn., 2nd Stryker Cav. Regt. “Us walking through the neighborhoods – that is an everyday thing,” he explained. Early morning operations hunting down 1st BCT’s most wanted criminals is just an added bonus for the ‘Fox’ Soldiers, said Huie, a 19-year veteran, who hails from Brooklyn, N.Y., and is the company’s acting first sergeant while his senior non-commissioned officer is on environmental leave.

“Our preferred method is to knock, and 90 percent of the people are more than willing to let us in,” stated Huie. “Conversely, if we find a house that looks suspicious to us, or a family that looks suspicious to us, and they don’t want to let us in their house, sometimes we have to cut their locks. “We may not see the results in the next three weeks, but I think this (operation) is going to generate a lot of tips and a lot more leads … and eventually we will get them,” added Huie. “Whether the people like it or not, we are coming through their whole neighborhood to get these criminals off the streets.”

The company’s mission has varied greatly during their time as a “surge unit” operating in southern Baghdad since August of 2007, said Huie. The Fox Soldiers have worked throughout Saha and Abu T’shir in southeastern Rashid to assist with essential services, force protection for Iraqi contractors to fix sewage or electricity issues in the Iraqi mulhallas (neighborhoods), as well as providing over watch for ISF and SOI manning checkpoints, providing security for the local communities, he said.

Staff Sgt. Scott Campbell, squad leader, Co. F, 2nd Sqdn., 2nd Stryker Cav. Regt., said that he hopes to see more changes for the better as the unit prepares to leave Baghdad for the unit’s future mission in Baquaba. “There’s a better peace now, than there was before the ‘surge,’” said Campbell, a native of Orlando.

Campbell a veteran of 11 years, said that in three deployments in support of OIF, from 2003 to today, he has seen many changes, especially in the security situation around southern Baghdad. “I think that when we go around and meet the locals and get to know them better on a personal basis, they become more at ease with us,” he explained. “The more we get to talk with them the better they trust us; the more they like us.”

Campbell said that in addition to improving security, units must continue to work to improve the infrastructure to better meet the needs of the Iraqi people. “They need to improve faster,” he said. “Iraqis need to start pushing a lot more effort into rebuilding their infrastructure; power, water, medical treatment, jobs, ways to create jobs. Stuff that could be making them money is not making them money right now, and I believe that we need to pursue those endeavors more.”

The Cougars will begin their third phase of the operations in May, as they begin to transition the Abu T’shir and Saha neighborhoods to 7th Sqdn., 10th Cav. Regt., 1st BCT, 4th Inf. Div., MND-B.

Freedom Facts: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ $288.5 million hospital program includes 25 renovation projects at 20 hospitals that focus on children’s and maternity care. Two new hospitals also are being constructed in Basrah and Maysan provinces. Currently, we have completed 17 of the projects, with the remaining eight (8) renovations expected to be completed by May 2008..

Source: Multi-National Force – Iraq.

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April 27, 2008

Officials outline Sadr City security plan

Filed under: CentCom, ME, MNF-I, money, recon, supplies — Rosemary Welch @ 5:28 am

Department of Defense

BAGHDAD (April 21, 2008) — Recent operations in Baghdad’s Sadr City neighborhood are part of the overall Baghdad security plan and necessary to rebuilding in the area, a Multinational Force Iraq spokesman told reporters Sunday. “The Baghdad security plan is to come in and create security in Baghdad, and as the neighborhoods become safe, then we can bring in other services,” Navy Rear Adm. Patrick Driscoll said in Baghdad. “In the southern part of Sadr City, they’re establishing that — an area of security.”

Specifically, coalition and Iraqi forces conducted Sadr City operations to facilitate the delivery of day-to-day essentials like food, water and some emergency medical supplies, Driscoll said. Once the area is totally secure additional service will be brought in. Larger reconstruction projects — fixing and building hospitals, and restoring electricity and water — will take time, he added. “You’ve got to have security first before you can get the people in … to do those things,” Driscoll said. “Otherwise, … construction workers will come in [and] they’ll be subject to intimidation and extortion. They’ll be threatened, and they won’t be able to get the job done.”

Thanks to $150,000,000 the Iraqi government has allocated to Sadr City, Driscoll said, he hopes the infrastructure reconstruction will begin quickly once the area is secure. Driscoll conducted the brief with Tahseen Sheikly, the civilian spokesman for Operation Fardh al-Qanoon. Sheikly said the government’s priorities are to bring basic services back online to “hot zones.” “The government of Iraq has set the priorities that such places need some good care and … providing the basic services and also getting out the projects for the infrastructure so that we can provide the best services to the inhabitants of those place,” he said. “As Prime Minister (Nouri al-)Maliki announced, … this year will be a year of construction, and it cannot be done without having a good security.” Iraqi security forces are taking the lead on providing that security with support from coalition forces, Driscoll said.

Source: CENTCOM.

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March 27, 2008

Boosting Karbala agribusiness, tourism, investment

Filed under: ag, CentCom, Corruption, econ, hope, ME, MNF-I — Rosemary Welch @ 10:23 am

By Jasmine Chopra
MND-C PAO

KARBALA, Iraq (March 14, 2008) — Boosting agribusiness, tourism and private investment by way of social venture capital were the top issues discussed at a March 12 meeting at Iraqi police headquarters in Karbala. Iraqi government officials, local businessmen, Multi-National Division – Center leaders and provincial reconstruction team members participated in the meeting. Security in Karbala is steadily improving, said Karbala provincial governor Aqil al-Khazali, as evidenced by the millions of pilgrims who safely commemorated Ashura in the holy city. “Karbala is ready for investment,” al-Khazali said.

Brig. Gen. Edward Cardon, MND-C deputy commander for support, agreed safety has improved and Iraqis are doing a good job of policing their own communities. “I don’t have to visit Karbala often because you have proven capable of handling the situation,” he said to Maj. Gen. Ra’ad Jawad, chief of the Karbala provincial police.

With improved safety, local business leaders and PRT members are planning ways to link Karbala to U.S. Agency for International Development programs as well as lucrative private investment, said Don Cook, a PRT team leader.

Vast agricultural resources, in particular poultry farms, make opportunities for high return in the agribusiness sector possible, said A.A. Araji, an agricultural economist who believes employing the use of greenhouses is an efficient way for Karbala to maximize its agricultural potential. Al-Khazali and local business leaders are eager to see funds earmarked for Karbala’s redevelopment make their way to local government instead of getting stuck in Baghdad bureaucracy, they said. “We would like to see monies forwarded directly to our local government. We can handle such responsibility and we want to make sure promises for aid are kept,” al-Khazali said.

In addition to agribusiness opportunities, participants discussed ways to tap into Karbala’s religious tourism potential. Considered a holy city to most Shia Muslims, Karbala is home to sacred shrines. Under Saddam Hussein’s regime, the pilgrimage to Karbala was banned. This year’s Ashura events, which occurred in late February and early March, were largely peaceful, Jawad said, speaking through an interpreter.

Local businessmen hope reduced violence will stimulate religious tourism and persuade would-be tourists to fill hotels and restaurants in Karbala, they said. Participants also explored ways of bringing private investors to the table. Plans for an unnamed private investment company official to meet with Karbala government leaders and PRT members next week were established. “We want to see the people of Karbala succeed,” Cardon said.

Photo: Boosting agribusiness, tourism and private investment by way of social venture capital were among top issues discussed at a March 12 meeting at Iraqi police headquarters in Karbala.(U.S. Army photo).

Source: CentCom.

March 16, 2008

Taji rails open for first time since 2003

Filed under: CentCom, equip, ME, MNF-I, successes — Rosemary Welch @ 5:12 am

by Sgt. Jerome Bishop
2nd Stryker Brigade

CAMP TAJI (March 7, 2008) — The railroad lines of the Taji Qada, north of Baghdad, have laid dormant since the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, but as a result of the efforts of Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers, the first train let loose a thunderous blast of its horn March. 5, as it slowly rolled through the gates of Camp Taji.

“This particular train … is part of a proof of principle,” said Cpt. James Kerns, a Harrison County, Ky., native, who serves as the assistant operations officer for the Base Defense Operations Command (BDOC), Multi-National Division – Baghdad. “(This mission was executed) to facilitate the Iraqi railroad infrastructure improvement so they can, in the future, utilize the train and rail system to carry goods.”

With a functioning rail system, the Iraqi Security Forces can benefit from the results as well as the people of Iraq.” It’s an enduring mission. The Iraqi railroads are being put back in, and it’s going to change the face of Taji,” said Maj. Henry McNealy, a Dewey Beach, Del., native, who serves as the operations officer for the BDOC. “It’ll become a consistent train; hopefully, over time, the infrastructure of Iraq will be rebuilt.”

Soldiers open a railroad gate at Camp Taji as an Iraqi train approaches. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jerome Bishop).

The train is a big piece of getting Iraq back on line, McNealy added. “Every year, something big usually happens – last year it was getting the oil lines back up – the electric lines running again, and this year it’ll probably be getting the rail going all the way from Mosul to Baghdad – being unimpeded by criminal elements, al-Qaeda in Iraq or special groups,” he explained.

Soldiers of the 2nd Bn., 11th FA Regt., took part in the operation by providing security alongside their Iraqi Army counterparts. The leg work, as far as conducting, maintaining and navigating the locomotive to Camp Taji, was performed by the Government of Iraq with minimal Coalition assistance, said Kern. “We’re facilitating the force protection requirements to bring the train in safely,” he explained.

Among the benefits the Government of Iraq is likely to gain, one of the greatest is getting more equipment from place to place without putting Iraqi or Coalition forces on dangerous roads. “This is going to help out a lot if the train makes it every time. If you have two or three guys in a truck, you’ll have 50 guys driving a bunch of smaller trucks. (With the rail system operational), you’ll have less guys out there on the road and less chances of casualties happening,” said 1st Sgt. Dwalyn Dasher, a Jesup, Ga., native, who serves with Battery A, 2-11 FA Regt. Battery B provided the bulk of the force protection measures at the Camp Taji train yard.

In addition to contributing to military operations throughout the country, a functioning rail system also provides the potential for a larger benefit for the average Iraqi. “It’ll bring business into the area; it’s going to bring economic goods into the area, and it’s going to allow the Iraqi Army to facilitate and sustain their own operations in the future,” Kern said. “Hopefully, in the not-so-distant future, improve security operations for the Iraqi Army by allowing them to bring military equipment into the area and more sustainment items to Camp Taji and further north into Iraq.”

Despite the short-lived spectacle of watching the green and yellow locomotive slowly roll through the almost-abandoned railroad gate, the bellow of the engine’s horn echoed yet another promising addition to the growing list of successful changes taking place to benefit the future of a free Iraq.

Source: US CentCom.

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UPDATE: CFs kill two terrorists; woman killed

Filed under: CF, dead, ME, MNF-I, weapons, Women — Rosemary Welch @ 3:15 am

MNFI.

BAGHDAD, Iraq (Feb. 6, 2008) – Numerous media reports have mischaracterized events in Tuesday’s operation in Ad Dawr. While conducting an intelligence-driven operation in pursuit of an al-Qaeda terrorist, Coalition forces approached the target house and, upon attempting entry, were confronted by a man who fired at the soldiers. The ground force returned fire, and the individual continued to fire at Coalition forces through a window, slightly wounding one soldier. The ground force called for the occupants of the house to come out multiple times, but were ignored.

Ground forces then entered the house and cleared the first two rooms without encountering any enemy. As forces entered a third room, an armed man was holding a woman as a human shield and aiming his weapon at the soldiers. Disregarding his personal safety, a soldier was able to push the woman aside and engage and kill the terrorist.

Seeing another armed man in the room and perceiving hostile intent, the soldier engaged and killed the individual. Once the enemy was neutralized, the soldiers swept the house and found a woman and young girl who appeared to have been shot during the initial engagement. The woman was dead, and the girl had been shot in the legs. A military medic began treating the child prior to evacuating her to a military medical facility. Three other women were also found unharmed in the house.

“MNF-I regrets the loss of innocent life in this operation, but the blame rests squarely with the enemy, who is willing to hide among family members and attempt to use them as human shields,” said Rear Adm. Gregory Smith, MNF-I spokesman. The incident remains under investigation.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT THE MNF-I PRESS DESK at: MNFIPressdesk@iraq.centcom.mil. (This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it.) FOR THIS PRESS RELEASE AND OTHERS VISIT WWW.MNF-IRAQ.COM.

* Please note that press releases are made available immediately in English and then translated into Arabic. There may be a delay of several hours before Arabic translations appear on the website. “الرجاء الملاحظة أن البيانات الصحفية تنشر فورياً بالانجليزية و ثم تترجم بالعربية. قد يكون هناك تأخير لعدة ساعات قبل نشر الترجمة العربية على الموقع الالكتروني.”

Source: US CentCom.

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