It has been said a thousand times that we can’t leave Iraq until Iraq’s security forces are willing and able to fight for themselves. And thanks to the training they are getting from U.S. forces, they are becoming ever more willing and able. There was plenty of bad news from Iraq this year, but among the best news is that Iraq’s police and army are showing marked improvement and are operating independently more frequently with each passing day. In fact, the progress they are making now warrants a separate section in this and future updates.
Reconstruction is another success story that is largely ignored. By the end of 2006, more than 2,600 projects had been completed. The supply of energy has been increased to 1.3 million homes, oil production is at 2.2 million bpd, 838 schools have been rehabilitated or constructed, 239 kilometers of road have been fixed, and 15 hospital rehabilitation projects have been completed.
None of the accomplishments presented here would make the failure to establish security and stability in Iraq any less disastrous. Yet these accomplishments are by no means rendered irrelevant because we are unsure of whether we will emerge victorious from the war. It is difficult to appreciate the good that is done by our soldiers if we are unaware of it; and it is easy to become discouraged if we ponder only the mess of the war and not the steady progress being made toward defeating our enemies and establishing a stable Iraqi society not ruled by a murderous despot. We still have a long way to go, but 2006 was the kind of year that should make us optimistic about the road forward.
Iraqi forces continue to improve, and are expected to be able to operate “virtually free of coalition help” sometime in 2007:
Iraqi Security Forces are on track to take care of their own security and combat operations virtually free of Coalition support within the next year, Multi-National Force – Iraq’s spokesman told reporters Tuesday.
“The Iraqi Security Force is making progress toward ensuring that Iraq’s future will be determined by Iraqis who want unity and prosperity, and not by outside forces who seek to sow chaos and discord,” Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV said during an operational update briefing at the Combined Press Information Center here.
In two raids, Iraqi forces, backed by U.S. soldiers, captured 20 people suspected of planting or manufacturing IEDs. One raid, in the town of Habaniyah, nabbed 15 terrorists with ties to al Qaeda.
The Iraqi Army captured two terrorist in Mosul after they planted an IED. One of the suspects admitted to being responsible for many of the IED attacks in the area.
Iraqi police captured two terrorists with links to al Qaeda during a raid in the town of Bahbahani. The two were responsible for IED attacks against coalition and Iraqi forces and the kidnapping and murder of Iraqi civilians.
During an airborne assault operation, Iraqi special forces captured the al Qaeda leader responsible for the kidnapping and murder of two U.S. servicemen:
“The battered and booby-trapped bodies of the two missing soldiers were found three days later. They had been tortured,” the Army Times said.
The Army Times said the captured suspect had discussed the incident “during the showing of a video CD at a Yousifiyah mosque that allegedly showed the kidnapping of the U.S. soldiers.”
On December 20, U.S. forces handed over security responsibilities in Najaf Province to the Iraqis. Three of Iraq’s 18 provinces are now under Iraqi control.
Iraqi forces captured ten insurgents near Fallujah. Two of the detainees are suspected of having ties to al Qaeda.
Near Musaiyib, Iraqi special police forces captured an IED maker, as well as the commander of the IED cell.
The 2nd Iraqi army division assumed responsibility for security operations in Mosul:
The 2nd IA successfully completed the final validation exercise on December 4th and have moved forward to full autonomy of operations and independence of maneuver in their battle space.
The 2nd IA is led by Major General Jamal, who said:
“Terrorists have been at work attempting to ‘kidnap’ Iraq. They target and kill the scientists, the teachers, and the thinkers, attempting to divide us along sectarian lines. Brothers and friends, it is time to track down and kill the terrorists. Mosul is a city of a civilization blessed by God. Let us pray to God to bring security and stability to all of our country.”
Iraqi army special forces captured three members of a murder and kidnapping cell in Sadr City. The IA forces received small arms fire when leaving the area, and stood their ground, returning fire and neutralizing the threat.
During a raid in Baghdad, Iraqi Army forces captured two terrorist responsible for making IEDs and for training others in how to prepare IEDs. Seven others were detained.
Iraqi army forces led the search of a mosque in Hit after receiving small arms fire from the building. The search yielded IED materials, and three suspects were detained.
During a raid in Tikrit, soldiers of the 5th IA Division captured four members of a weapons-smuggling ring, and uncovered a large weapons cache:
The cache consisted of nearly 100 rounds of machine gun ammunition, six rocket propelled grenades, five grenades, IED making materials, anti-Iraqi propaganda and three stolen cars.
The leader of an insurgent cell was captured by Iraqi soldiers during a raid in Suwayrah. The cell leader is a suspect in several violent attacks against Iraqi forces and civilians.
During a three-day recruiting drive in Ramadi, over 400 Iraqis signed up to join the Iraqi police.
Iraqi special forces captured four leaders of an insurgent cell responsible for murder, kidnapping, and IED attacks against Iraqi police and civilians.
Iraqi army forces captured a senior al Qaeda leader during a raid in Fallujah:
Special Iraqi Army forces, with coalition advisers, captured a terrorist leader during a raid Dec. 7 in Fallujah responsible for directing sniper, improvised explosive device and car bombing attacks against Iraqi security forces. He also participated in the abduction and execution of several Iraqi Police officers.
Acting on tips received from residents of the al Doura neighborhood in Baghdad, Iraqi police captured two weapons caches, and detained six over a two day period.
In Samara, the Iraqi army assumed control of Patrol Base Razor from Coalition forces. It’s a step in the right direction:
“It allows them to show they are capable of providing security for the citizens of Samarra and its surrounding villages,[”] Flood said.
“It’s a positive step in the right direction for the long-term security for this part of Iraq,” he continued. “The Iraqi army is the future and is the security answer here.”
Soldiers of Iraq’s 4th army division conducted an operation to clear weapons and search for insurgents near the northern city of Kirkuk. The operation was planned and executed by Iraqi forces.
Iraqi special forces uncovered a large weapons cache and IED materials during a raid on a mosque in Baghdad:
Iraqi forces…uncovered multiple hidden storage areas containing a large cache of IEDs, weapons and explosives which are used in attacks that injure and kill Iraqi civilians, Iraqi Security Forces and Coalition Forces. Weapons and material were found in the houses, the compound area and the mosque.
Iraqi forces found two vehicles prepared for use as car-bombs, as well as pre-made IEDs, to include a suicide-vest.
Continued search of the compound revealed several anti-tank mines, electrical initiation systems for IEDs, a mortar system and ammunition, several assault rifles and ammunition, several machine guns, pistols and a rocket propelled grenade launcher and ammunition.
Soldiers of the 5th Iraqi army division joined with members of the 82nd Airborne in discovering a huge weapons cache during an operation in which 50 insurgents were killed:
The caches included over 400,000 rounds of small-arms ammunition, 15,000 rounds of heavy machine gun ammunition, five mortar bipods, three heavy machine guns, three anti-tank weapons, two recoilless rifles and numerous mortar rounds, grenades, flares and artillery rounds. Additionally, the Soldiers noticed an abandoned Nissan truck with false license plates. Upon searching the vehicle, the Soldiers uncovered a number of IED making material and anti-Iraqi forces items such as batteries, cellular phones, blasting caps, explosives, propaganda materials and a large amount of U.S. dollars.
During a raid in Mahmudiyah, Iraqi special police forces captured 28 members of an insurgent cell suspected of conducting IED and mortar attacks against Iraqi security forces.
In Sadr City, Iraqi special forces conducted a raid to capture the leader of a kidnapping and murder cell who is suspected of having knowledge of the whereabouts of a U.S. soldier kidnapped in October. A total of five suspects were detained.
Soldiers of Iraq’s 7th army division conducted an independent security sweep in Ramadi:
The 2-1-7 Iraqi Army battalion planned and executed the motorized, mechanized and dismounted operation employing T-72 Tanks, High Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicles (Humvees) and dismounted patrols during a four hour operation. Demonstrating good communication between battalion elements, the Iraqi soldiers were able to secure more than 75 structures during the operation.
Alert soldiers of the 6th Iraqi army division prevented an attack on a funeral procession after they stopped a car and found two heavily armed individuals inside.
On November 28, two leaders of an IED and car bomb cell were captured by Iraqi special forces in Baghdad.
The 9th Iraqi army division led an operation in Baghdad to capture terrorists hiding in the area of Rusafa.
Soldiers of the 5th Iraqi army division led a raid in Baqubah that resulted in the capture of a suspected insurgent leader and financier.
Three vehicle-born IEDs were discovered in Baghdad by the Iraqi army, and were disarmed before they could explode.
Iraqi security forces captured two al Qaeda-linked terrorist in separate operations on December 2. In Tameem, the Iraqi army captured a terrorist suspected in IED attacks against Iraqi security forces and civilians. And in Baghdad, Iraqi special forces captured a terrorist responsible for IED attacks and car bombings.
On November 30, Iraqi special forces entered a mosque looking for a terrorist suspected of the kidnapping and murder of Iraqi civilians, and of coordinating attacks against coalition forces. The search uncovered a small weapons cache consisting of 2 RPG launchers and an IED.
In Taji, Iraqi security forces captured a suspected terrorist implicated in assisting al Qaeda by providing safe houses and staging areas.
Iraqi police discovered two weapons caches and detained six men during raids conducted in the al Doura section of Baghdad.
In Mahmudiyah, Iraqi security forces captured five members of al Qaeda and confiscated a stockpile of weapons and al Qaeda propaganda.
Iraqi special police forces captured six suspected terrorists during a raid on a mosque in Hit.
Twenty-three kidnapped Iraqis were rescued by soldiers of the 6th Iraqi army division during an operation in Baghdad:
The 4th Battalion, 1st Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division team followed a suspicious vehicle during the operation. When it stopped in front of a house, the troops discovered two kidnapped Iraqis in the car. A search of the house revealed another 20 hostages. Company E, 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment arrived on the scene to assist. An hour later at a nearby checkpoint, the joint patrol observed insurgents in two vehicles as they stopped a bus and tried to abduct the passengers.
The Iraqi Soldiers engaged one of the cars killing one kidnapper and wounding
two others. There was an additional hostage in the vehicle’s trunk.
We need Iraq’s security forces to fight for themselves, and that is exactly what they are doing:
Iraqi Police in western Ramadi fought through an ambush and cleared three buildings Sunday.
More than forty Iraqi police responded quickly to reports of kidnappings of
university students by Al Qaeda insurgents in the notorious Tameen neighborhood.
As the police force approached, insurgents attacked them with rocket-propelled
grenade and small arms fire from three buildings.
The police exchanged gunfire with the insurgents and entered the buildings, searching them from room to room. An Iraqi Army patrol responded to the policemen’s call for back-up and joined the firefight against the insurgents. Coalition Forces also responded to the call for back-up and assisted with security in the area.
The police, based out of the Al Huriyah Station, searched and secured the buildings themselves while Coalition Forces provided security. The fight lasted for three hours.
An Iraqi national police sentry prevented a car bomb attack on police barracks in Jaza’r. When the vehicle failed to stop for the sentry, it was fired upon, causing it to crash into two parked cars and explode.
Iraqi police prevented a rocket attack on a coalition base when they discovered three rockets placed by insurgents and set to fire by timer. The rockets were destroyed before they could fire.
An al Qaeda leader was captured by Iraqi special forces during a raid in Fallujah:
The individual is suspected of participating in an extensive murder and intimidation campaign against Iraqi civilians and Iraqi security forces.
He is suspected of participating in the abduction, torture and execution of several Iraqi policemen. He is also believed to be involved in recruiting and harboring terrorist members and has known ties to senior al-Qaeda in Iraq leadership.
Iraqi army forces uncovered ten IEDs during a security sweep in Mosul, including two at an elementary school.
It is discouraging that Muslims around the world condemned the timing of Saddam’s execution, coming as it did at the start of Eid, while saying not a word about Muslims who use mosques to terrorize other Muslims:
The raid yielded two machine guns, an AK-47 rifle, a rocket-propelled grenade
motor, and heavy machine guns rounds. The motor and rounds were found inside a mosque, while the other weapons were in a dumpster outside the mosque.
During a raid in Baqubah, Iraqi forces captured two al Qaeda leaders wanted for a variety of crimes:
The alleged al Qaeda in Iraq leaders have conducted several improvised explosive device attacks against Iraqi security forces and bombing attacks on the homes and stores of Iraqi civilians. They are suspected of being involved in an IED attack on the Mandali courthouse as well. The cell leaders are also implicated in an assassination attempt against a senior Iraqi police officer.
Thirteen suspected members of a terrorist cell responsible for the kidnapping and murdering of Iraqi civilians were captured in Muqdadiyah by members of Iraq’s 5th army division. On the same day, troops of the 1st Iraqi army division detained 27 members of a cell suspected of IED and small arms attacks against Iraqis. Also that day, 16 kidnapping victims were rescued by the Iraqi army after receiving a tip about the whereabouts.
Iraqi police captured two al Qaeda-linked terrorists during an operation in Bahbahani. The two were wanted in connection with the kidnapping and murder of Iraqi civilians.
Three more al Qaeda terrorists were captured by Iraqi police in Mosul. The two are believed to be involved in multiple car bombings in the area.
We have all heard the stories of the Iraqi army running away from a battle, but now it’s the terrorists who are running away:
Iraqi Army Soldiers responded to an attack by terrorists on a mosque in a western district of the Iraqi capital, causing the terrorists to flee before doing any damage Dec.30.
At approximately 1:00 p.m., elements of the 6th Iraqi Army Division responded to reports that terrorists were firing AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades at the Al-Hussein Mosque, located in the Al-Mansour district. The Iraqi Army responded immediately and informed coalition forces of the attack.
Before coalition forces could arrive on the scene the terrorists fled from the scene.
The Iraqi army captured two terrorists after they fled the scene of an IED detonation. They sang like canaries and gave up two of their comrades.
In Bayji, the Iraqi army captured an insurgent sniper responsible for attacks against coalition forces.
Civilian Iraqis are engaged in the fight to secure Iraq as well:
A group of Sunni tribal chiefs in Iraq say they have caught more than 100 al-Qaeda members in recent months.
The tribal chiefs in the Iraqi province of Anbar joined forces in September in an attempt to defeat al-Qaeda.
The threat is real enough that al Qaeda recently launched an attack against a tribe in Anbar:
Al Qaeda forces attacked through a tribal area check point and engaged the Abu Soda in Sofia. Al Qaeda burned homes, and killed members of the tribe using small arms fire and mortars.
The outlook for the violent Anbar Province is improving, thanks in large part to the partnership between the U.S. and local leaders:
“At one point the local tribal leaders and the population at large fought against us. But as they observed our continuing efforts to improve their communities, they’ve taken noticeable steps switching their alliance from sympathizing with the insurgents to helping us get the security situation under control,” Lee explained.
“We’re working on schools, water and sewage treatment plants, hospitals and primary healthcare centers, electrical generation and distribution networks, waterway maintenance, roadways, police and fire stations, and the local residents appreciate our efforts. Those times I would get discouraged about the ongoing challenges, it just took a stop in one of the many villages we were assessing for projects to get re-energized about our mission. The thankful smiles of their youngsters did it for me every time.”
Grateful Iraqis thanked U.S. forces after they killed six terrorists and destroyed two terrorist safe houses in the village of Gharma:
Local villagers expressed their gratitude to Coalition Forces after the raid for “ridding the area of terrorists,” whom they claimed had killed several of the men in their village. When asked the whereabouts of her husband, one 21-year-old single mother of five children said, “The terrorists killed him.”
Eight al Qaeda terrorists were killed by coalition forces during a raid in Baqubah.
A serious blow was delivered to the terrorist group Ansar al Sunna after eleven high-ranking members were captured during a series of raids in November.
During the raids, Coalition Forces captured the terrorist emirs of Iraq, Ramadi, Baqubah, Tikrit, al Qa’im, Bayji and Baghdad. They also captured two terrorist facilitators, a courier, an explosives expert and a financier.
Acting on a tip, coalition troops uncovered a large weapons cache in Baghdad:
They found 16 82mm mortar rounds, one 60mm mortar round, one 82mm mortar tube with a tripod, one 60mm mortar tube with a base plate, 11 grenades, one machinegun with three full magazines, one rocket-propelled grenade launcher sight, one set of body armor with plates, one set of body armor without plates, 42 mortar primers, 59 grenade fuses, two radios and a bomb protective suit.
A foreign terrorist was killed in Khanaqin after he fired on a Coalition aircraft, the last thing he ever did:
A Coalition aircraft was leaving a raid that targeted foreign fighter facilitators when it received small-arms fire from a vehicle, officials said. Coalition Forces returned fire, destroying the vehicle and killing the armed terrorist.
We always hear about the car bombs that go off, but never about the ones that don’t:
Soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division discovered a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device a little more than a mile south of Mahmudiyah.
The car bomb was composed of 40 57mm anti-aircraft rounds planted in the doors of a red Kia Sophia. An explosive ordinance disposal team was called in, and completed a controlled detonation of the explosives.
Fortunately, placing IEDs can be dangerous business:
Last night, coalition forces engaged a small number of insurgents emplacing an improvised explosive device. Two insurgents died in the engagement. The three remaining insurgents returned to the emplacement site, and coalition forces fired one main-tank-gun round, killing all three insurgents.
Following an IED attack on a coalition vehicle four hours later in the same vicinity, four insurgents were killed after they attempted to take mission-essential equipment from the vehicle. Two of the insurgents were killed by small-arms fire, and two were killed with one main-tank-gun round.
And in Fallujah:
An estimated four insurgents were killed by aviation fires after precision munitions were employed to destroy a bongo truck used to transport improvised explosive devices Friday south of Fallujah.
Another problem with IEDs is that they sometimes go off prematurely:
Three terrorists were killed and one was seriously wounded on Nov. 13 when they tried to plant a roadside bomb in the Baghdad Garage neighborhood on Train Station Road in western Mosul.
The terrorists attempted to emplace a roadside bomb consisting of a 155 mm artillery round when it exploded prematurely, killing two of them instantly and injuring two more.
Then there is the chance that the Marines will catch you planting one:
Three insurgents were killed and two vehicles were destroyed when Marines assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5 observed insurgents emplacing an improvised explosive device beneath a tractor trailer and a large Bongo truck.
The Marines engaged the insurgents with small-arms fire and destroyed the vehicles with air delivered precision-guided munitions, which triggered multiple secondary explosions.
Coalition forces killed nine members of al Qaeda during an operation in Yusufiyah. Several of those killed were wearing suicide vests.
In Ramadi, a raid by Coalition forces ended with eight terrorist being killed and two detained. Three terrorists were killed when they fired on Coalition troops approaching their building, and five were killed when the car they were riding in was hit by fire from close air support.
Marines acting as part of Operation Talon rescued two kidnapping victims north of Fallujah. In addition, 13 suspects were detained and a weapons cache uncovered.
Soldiers of the 1st Infantry Division discovered an impressive weapons cache in Baghdad:
On this day, the patrol unearthed three 155mm artillery rounds, three 130mm artillery rounds, five 120mm mortar rounds, five 120mm artillery rounds, nine 82mm mortar rounds, four 100-round machinegun ammunition belts, four rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) rounds, ten RPG boosters, eight anti-aircraft rocket launchers, two machineguns, 5,000 7.62mm rounds of ammunition, four homemade improvised explosive device detonators, four 80mm mortar tubes, three 73mm rockets, eight anti-aircraft guns and other materials used for fabricating IEDs.
In al-Taji, Coalition forces killed ten terrorists and destroyed an IED factory after terrorists engaged the patrol with small arms fire.
Another 12 terrorists were killed north of Baghdad after they refused to give up and fired on Coalition forces.
Fourteen insurgents were killed after attempting to ambush a Coalition convoy:
Coalition air and ground forces combined to kill 14 insurgents and wound two at approximately 2 a.m. Nov. 30 after the individuals engaged a coalition convoy with small arms fire southwest of Samarra.
The enemy attack resulted in no coalition force casualties.
While the insurgents fled in trucks and motorcycles, Task Force Lightning attack helicopters tracked them for several miles and used two guided bombs to destroy one of the vehicles. Subsequently, helicopters and strike aircraft engaged the remaining vehicles, killing or wounding all of the insurgents.
Twenty al Qaeda terrorists were killed after engaging coalition forces with small-arms fire. Two were killed when coalition forces returned fire, and another 18 died in an air strike on the building where they were hiding.
In Mosul, a top al Qaeda leader was captured by Coalition forces:
As the Military Emir of Mosul in 2005, he was personally responsible for hundreds of civilian deaths, to include women and children. He housed foreign fighters to be used in suicide bombing attacks against the Coalition and the Iraqi people.
After leaving Mosul in late 2005, he became the Military Emir of Karkh, Baghdad. During that time, he coordinated vehicle borne improvised explosives device attacks and kidnap for ransom operations in Baghdad. He also reportedly organized an attempted shoot down of a Coalition Forces helicopter in an Ad’hamiyah neighborhood in May 2006.
Paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division discovered several large weapons caches during a patrol in Samarra:
The caches included more than 20,000 rounds of small arms and anti-aircraft
ammunition, more than 200 mortars, anti-tank, and anti-personnel mines, eight rocketpropelled grenade launcher, three 12.7 mm heavy machineguns, one 30 mm automatic grenade launchers, one 14.5 mm anti-aircraft machinegun, and one claymore mine.
A group of Iraqi children were rewarded after they tipped off U.S. soldiers to the presence of an IED near FOB Marez:
Upon investigating, Soldiers from 2-7 Cav. determined it was an improvised explosive device and called for the explosive ordinance disposal team, who arrived on the scene and destroyed the device.
The children who pointed out the device received gifts from the 2-7 Scouts that same day, and were further rewarded the next day when 4th Brigade Combat Team Civil Affairs Soldiers visited them with more toys, candy, and soccer balls.
Reconstruction and Economy
Work on the reconstruction of Iraq’s oil infrastructure is nearing completion:
The total oil industry reconstruction program has several goals before the Corps of Engineers will be satisfied their work is complete, Fritzley said. The first goal is to increase crude oil production capacity to 3 million barrels per day. Other goals are to increase natural gas production capacity to 800 million standard cubic feet per day and to increase cooking gas production to 3,000 tons per day.
As of November 2006, Iraq’s oil production stood at 2.5 million barrels per day. The $1.7 billion budget for the project includes work to put a pipeline over the Tigris river, which was completed in June, as well as work to repair and modernize all of Iraq’s infrastructure:
Other key projects include rehabilitating oil wells, refurbishment of the oil export terminal near Basrah, repairing gas oil separation plants, compressor stations, water injection facilities and training oil workers.
Two new oil fields are under development in Iraq, and output is expected to reach 90,000 barrels per day.
Oil ministry spokesman Asim Jihad, quoting remarks by oil minister Hussain Shahristani, said development would start ‘soon’ with an initial output of 30,000 barrels per day, rising to its 90,000 bpd capacity within two years.
A second field, East Baghdad, would also be priority, Jihad said, adding that development would also start there ‘soon’. He said Shahristani gave no further detail on the timing.
’We are going to start developing Ahdab in Wasit province soon, to produce 30,000 barrels per day, rising to 90,000 in two years,’ Jihad told Reuters.
In Nasiriyah, work is nearing completion on a new water treatment plant. The plant will provide fresh water for more than 500,000 residents in the area. The plant is owned by the Iraqi government and be operated by Iraqis.
Also in Nasiriyah, U.S. Army engineers delivered toys to happy Iraqi children in an effort to promote goodwill:
“We put the toys, animals and candy into plastic baggies to give to the children. Sending the stuffed animals makes the people at home happy to be a part of this effort; receiving the animals makes the children here happy; and I am happy that I can help in some small way to make this exchange happen. Everyone wins,” Parks said.
Residents of Baghdad’s Al Mansour District received free medical care, compliments of Iraqi army and Coalition medical personnel:
The combined medical operation provided citizens of the neighborhood with basic health care and the medicine needed for their ailments.
Care packages, wheel chairs, blankets and toys where [sic] also distributed to the patients by soldiers from the 414th Civil Affairs Battalion, currently attached to the 4th BCT.
Soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division handed out supplies to children in Radwaniyah. Such outreach efforts are actually an important tool in securing Iraq:
The simple act of giving the Iraqi children basic items has led to the discovery of dangerous weapons and improvised-explosive devices. Sometimes when the Iraqi children recognize soldiers who have helped them, they show the soldiers where such dangerous weapons are located.
“Giving the children items they need helps them get over the fear of people (soldiers) in uniform,” said Capt. Mark Griffin, a civil affairs officer, who operates with the 2nd BCT. “It shows them that people in uniform are not bad.”
After being almost entirely drained by Saddam, Iraq’s marshlands are making a comeback:
Satellite images and analysis released by UNEP today showed that almost 50 per cent of the total area, one of the world’s largest wetland ecosystems, had been re-flooded with seasonal fluctuations, in sharp contrast to agency images in 2001 that revealed that 90 per cent of the Marshlands had already been lost.
The Iraqi government is planning to spend $500 million on building projects in the city of Basrah. The city is expected to be designated a free-trade zone in 2007, and fixing and expanding the city’s port facilities are a priority.
Also in Basrah, construction of a new children’s hospital is underway. The project’s total cost is estimated at $157 million, with the U.S. contributing $95 million:
“A specially designed foundation and engineered soil was brought in to prepare the existing conditions for the hospital complex,” Frank said. “The project includes a two-story 16,350 square meter main hospital facility, a separate 1,000 square meter building that provides sleeping accommodations for 32 physicians and nurses, two separate electrical and mechanical buildings at 600 square meters each, three separate guard houses, landscaping, paved parking, a soccer field and a 1,134 meter security wall enclosing the site.”
The main hospital facility has 94 patient beds, 20 outpatient exam rooms, an eight-bed pediatric intensive care unit, a seven-bassinette neonatal intensive care unit, and four general nursing wards, Frank said.
Other features include two operating rooms, an oncology center; an imaging department with radiography, fluoroscopy, CAT scan, MRI and ultrasound capabilities; an emergency department, and an outpatient endoscopy suite.
Besides the positive health aspects of a new hospital, the project will boost the overall economic prosperity of the region.
“Within the first month of our contract, the project was employing over 400 people on a daily basis including construction workers, a supervisory staff of over 30 contractor personnel, and over 100 security workers who provide 24-hour site security, said Paul Farley, the BCHPO’s construction rep.
Early this year, a new teaching hospital will open its doors in Najaf. The $110 million facility has 420 beds and 18 operating rooms. The hospital will employ more than 1,200 Iraqis, including 100 doctors and 200 medical students.
According to the mayor of Mahmudiyah, the city’s market is the “heart” of the community, but it is in dire need of repair after being targeted by numerous terrorist attacks. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is helping the people of the city by overseeing a $256K renovation of the market:
About 100,000 residents in the Mahmudiyah area (located 20 miles south of Baghdad) utilize the market and local farmers bring in their produce and meat for local consumption. It’s a main economic engine of the community “and our residents really appreciate the improvements that are underway,” the mayor noted.
The police in Baghdad now have a state-of-the-art forensics facility to assist in solving crimes. The $1.9 million forensics laboratory is located in Karadah, in the province of Baghdad.
Construction was recently completed on a new courthouse in the town of Husseiniya, in Baghdad Province. The $408,000 project will serve approximately 100,000 residents in the area.
Three hundred children in Kirkuk will benefit from the construction of a new primary school. The $269,000 project includes two new classrooms, an administrative building and a latrine, as well as generators and a playground.
On December 11, Austrian Air Group became the first European airline to offer flights to Iraq. Two flights a week are scheduled to land at Erbil airport:
Erbil “is a safe gateway,” according to the AAG. “With a population approaching one million people, Erbil is the fourth-largest city in Iraq, and the fastest-growing in the country.”
In fact, Iraq’s airline industry as a whole is coming to life:
At the chaotic Baghdad International Airport, hundreds of passengers are jammed up at the only security checkpoint. Western contractors carrying green duffel bags and Iraqi families with carts of luggage shout at unfazed security guards.
To Kifah Hussein Jabbar, director of Iraqi Airways, it’s music to his ears. “We are making progress and achieving good results,” says Jabbar, director of Iraq’s national carrier. “In 2005, we were flying three or four flights a day and maximum 300 passengers a day. Today, we operate 10 to 12 flights per day and carry 1,500 passengers daily.”
Iraq’s airline industry — long grounded by sanctions, no-fly zones, lack of funds and violence — is experiencing a boom, particularly in the peaceful Kurdish provinces in northern Iraq.
After three years of inactivity, Iraq’s ministry of industry has resumed production of buses, trailers, and caravans, as well as parts for the oil industry.
USAID is helping the Iraqi government set up a program to offer microloans to businesses. More than 100 participants attended a two-day summit in Erbil to discuss “the role of microfinance in economic development and job creation in Iraq.”
Kirkuk is just one of the places already benefiting from microfinancing programs:
A few months ago, a terrorist incident in Kirkuk destroyed most of the stock of a local pharmacy, leaving a family-owned business in tatters and depriving the community of much needed medication. The pharmacy and the services it provides to the community will soon be fully restored: in mid-July the family took out a loan – the equivalent of $3,000 in Iraqi dinars – to replenish the stock and rebuild the business. As small as it may look, the amount means a lot.
On December 12, the World Bank extended $40 million in credit to Iraq to assist in the rehabilitation of two hydroelectric power stations in the Kurdish north:
The objective of the project is to alleviate the current power supply shortfall by improving the operating performance of the Dokan and Derbandikhan power stations through urgent repair works. According to the World Bank, the project will also strengthen local capacity and prepare for the subsequent full rehabilitation of the Dokan and Derbandikhan hydropower plants in order to restore their original capacity of 400 and 249 megawatts respectively.
In the town of Nafar, a potable water project is now complete. The project will benefit 5,000 residents of the area. The project cost 629 million Iraqi dinar.
As of November 2006, 2,610 reconstruction projects have been completed in Iraq, including:
1,420 MW of power have been added to the Iraqi power grid, increasing supply to 1.3 million homes;
Oil production is up to 2.2 million barrels per day, and liquefied petroleum gas production is at 1,200 tons per day;
422,000 cubic meters per day of water treatment capacity has been added, benefiting 2.1 million Iraqis;
Seven primary healthcare centers have been completed, of these six are open and operating, and 15 hospital rehabilitation projects have been completed;
838 schools have been repaired of constructed, benefiting 335,000 students; and
239 kilometers of village roads have received upgrades.
Marine Corps Sergeant Willie L. Copeland III:
Sgt. Copeland and his team were part of a 15-vehicle convoy traveling through the Al Anbar Province in Iraq on April 7, 2004, when a group of about 50 insurgents ambushed them. As the enemy fighters fired rocket-propelled grenades at the convoy, Copeland led five Marines through a deep, muddy canal toward the insurgents. Copeland directed his five-man team closer, and succeeded in killing 10 insurgents and pushing back many more. During the fight, his platoon commander was severely injured. Copeland responded by instructing the other Marines to remain in covered positions to avoid getting hit while he shielded the wounded officer and applied first aid. For his actions, Copeland received the Navy Cross on April 21, 2005.
Army Sergeant Major William J. Doherty:
In April of 2005, then 1st Sgt. Doherty was part of an operation to detain a high profile member of an Iraqi insurgent group who was speaking in a public venue. When the suspect began to threaten Iraqi police and others with an active grenade, Sgt. Doherty directed coalition personnel to safety while placing himself between them and the enemy. He was wounded by the suspect’s grenade when it later exploded. Sgt. Doherty killed the insurgent who was reaching for a second grenade, and continued to command the operation until he was medically evacuated.
Sgt. Doherty was given the option to return home after his injuries, but chose to stay with his unit and recover in Iraq. He had participated in Operation Desert Storm in 1991, and in two deployments during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He has three Bronze Stars, two with Valor.
Marine Corps Reserve Cpl. Todd J. Corbin:
Then-Lance Cpl. Corbin and the rest of his quick-reaction force responded to a call on May 7, 2005, to help block an insurgents’ retreat in Haditha, Iraq. As the group searched the area, a vehicle laden with IEDs sped toward the convoy and blew up between two of the Humvees. Another blast followed as enemy fighters began firing upon the group. Three of the four vehicles were severely damaged, and 11 of 16 Marines were injured or killed. Corbin instantly took control of the situation and repositioned his vehicle to block the fire from hitting the wounded. He radioed in the situation, and began directing a counter-attack. Corbin then ran back and forth several times through the line of fire recovering dead or wounded personnel and loading them into his Humvee, as he also shot at the enemy. Once he had everyone loaded, he drove his damaged truck through the kill zone to deliver the casualties to the battle aid station. For his leadership and actions, Corbin was awarded the Navy Cross on April 12, 2006.
Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Joseph P. Buhain:
Staff Sgt. Buhain, a respiratory therapist, was activated as a medic and served in two combat zones from May 2004 to July 2005. Buhain was first sent to Baghdad, where he treated both Coalition soldiers and insurgents. He was awarded the Army Commendation Medal for treating more than 1,500 injuries. Buhain was then sent to Afghanistan in September to be the medical noncommissioned officer in charge of the Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team. During his time there, Buhain was instrumental in helping to build a respiratory school for Afghan medical students and an intensive care unit in a hospital in Kandahar. He also trained more than 350 Afghan and Pakistani medical students in CPR, life support functions and respiratory care management. Buhain took part in more than 150 missions, several of which were high risk. During one mission, he was injured in an IED attack. For his efforts in both countries, Buhain was awarded the Bronze Star Medal on March 10, 2005.
Army Col. James H. Coffman Jr.:
Col. Coffman was a senior advisor to Iraqi Special Police commandos on Nov. 14, 2004, when he joined a commando quick reaction force (QRF) that was sent to help a platoon under attack in a Mosul, Iraq, police station. The terrorists hit the QRF with heavy fire upon arrival, killing or seriously injuring all but one of the commando officers. Coffman rallied the remaining forces to continue the fight, and radioed for more help. When a round shattered his shooting hand and damaged his rifle, Coffman bandaged up his hand and continued fighting with rifles he collected from the casualties piling up around him. Coffman and his team defended the station for four hours before help arrived. Coffman led the relief forces to his position and continued to fight, refusing medical evacuation until the battle was over. Once the threat was eliminated, 25 terrorists were killed and dozens were injured. For his actions and leadership, Coffman received the Distinguished Service Cross on Aug. 24, 2005.
Army Special Forces Master Sgt. Anthony S. Pryor:
Master Sgt. Pryor and his team were on a combat mission in Afghanistan on Jan. 23, 2002, searching for suspected terrorists. As Pryor and his team began moving through the area, enemy fighters began firing upon the group. The team got separated, leaving Pryor and another soldier clearing room by room. The other soldier was distracted by an enemy fighter and stayed outside to return fire. Pryor continued forward and as an enemy fighter came charging out of a room, Pryor assisted in killing him. He pushed ahead and found himself alone with three insurgents. As he was engaged with the two who had guns, an insurgent crept up behind Pryor and began attacking, breaking a clavicle and dislocating his shoulder. Pryor wrestled with the assailants, engaging in a hand-to-hand struggle and eventually eliminating him. The two gunmen Pryor had shot revived during the fight, and attempted to kill him, but Pryor quickly began shooting at them again, this time killing them. He then rejoined the fight outside the building. When the battle ended, 21 enemy fighters had been killed. For his actions, Pryor received the Silver Star on June 12, 2003.
— Bill Crawford lives in San Antonio, Texas. He blogs at All Things Conservative