Saturday, March 15, 2008

Iraq News Update

Updates from Multi-National Force Iraq on what our troops are doing to assist the Iraqi people

  • Salman Pak market opens for business, by Sgt. Natalie Rostek. March 13, 2008:
    COMBAT OUTPOST CARVER — A new market opened in Salman Pak March 11 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by leaders of the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, local citizens and council leaders.

    The market consists of seven stores including two restaurants, a supermarket, an electronics shop, a photo shop, a sweets store and a cell phone store.

    Capt. Mathew Givens, projects planner for the 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, said planning for the market began last December when 1-15th Inf. Regt. Soldiers in the area saw run-down shops where the new market now stands. ...

    “We chose the area because there is so much going on and it is at the beginning of the main part of town,” Givens said. “The JSS (joint security station), the government building and the Salman Pak Fire Station are right across the street. It’s in a central location.”

    Leaders of the 1-15 Inf. Regt. provided store owners with microgrants enabling them to refurbish their stores.

  • Hawr Rajab Sees Significant Economic, Quality of Life Improvements March 10, 2008:
    FOB KALSU — With security improving in Hawr Rajab, stores and schools are reopening and a number of programs are revitalizing a community once on the brink of chaos.

    In November 2007, al-Qaeda launched their last well-coordinated offensives into Hawr Rajab, killing a total of 12 members of the Sons of Iraq (SoI) and wounding eight. In the same firefight, two Iraqi Army (IA) Soldiers were killed and another nine wounded; four U.S. Soldiers were injured in the attacks.

    When the insurgents attacked, the SoI program in the region was still in its infancy, but the members were not deterred. With the assistance of Coalition forces and IA Soldiers, residents began to reclaim their community and insurgents not killed or captured were forced to flee.

    As rebuilding of the rural farming area began, community leaders ramped up efforts to re-establish ties with the government of Iraq (GoI).

    Sheik Ali Majeed Mushir Al-Dulaymi, leader of the SoI in Hawr Rajab, began meeting with Yousif Yaqoub Bekhaty, Rashid District Council chairman, and other council officials to request government assistance with reconstruction efforts. . . .

    The combined efforts of the groups, assigned to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, mean residents of Hawr Rajab have access to resources for rebuilding their town.

    Life is returning to normal with the improvements, made possible by partnership between Coalition forces, SoI, officials from the GoI and Iraqi security forces. Hawr Rajab is becoming a beacon of change and potential for sustainable economic improvements.

  • The Thunder Rolls: Taji Rail Lines Open for First Time Since 2003 March 6, 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."

    The train is a big piece of getting Iraq back on line, McNealy added.

Additional News

  • Back in Baghdad, looking for the normal, by Caesar Ahmed, Los Angeles Times. March 13, 2008 - A physician-journalist who fled Iraq with his wife and young daughters goes home after hearing that things have improved
    I watched Iraqi television channels and noticed footage of new cars in Baghdad and municipal workers planting flowers in public parks. I talked to relatives and friends. "Come back," they said. "Baghdad is better now; Karada is like heaven."

    When my old company said it would rehire me, I bought a plane ticket.

    My mother and brother have returned to Baghdad, but I've seen them only once because they live across the city. On the phone, my mother begs me not to go out.

    The hardest part has been being away from my wife and girls. I had promised we would never be apart, but I have been away now for more than two months.

    Sadly, I'd rather they stay far away. In Egypt, they can lead a normal life, with security, electricity and hot water. In Iraq, they might see what I saw a few days ago: blood staining the ground after a bombing.

    But as I spend more time here, I realize many Iraqis are like me. They are sick of sectarian killings. A year ago, we just wished to stay alive. Now we dream about a normal life. We want to live in our homes and take our children to school.

    Some Iraqis are hoping again, even me.

  • The US has captured a senior al Qaeda leader with close links to Osama bin Laden and has transferred him to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
    Muhammad Rahim al Afghani, a senior aide to bin Laden, was captured in August 2007.

    Rahim was described as a “high-value” individual by Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman in a press briefing today that announced Rahim’s transfer to the military detention facility. “Prior to his arrival in Guantanamo, he has been held in CIA custody,” Whitman said, indicating he has been interrogated by the CIA for eight months.

    Whitman described Rahim as “one of (Osama bin Laden’s) most trusted facilitators and procurement specialists.” Rahim is from Nangahar province, Afghanistan, and joined al Qaeda in the mid-1990s. He served as a procurement agent, and then later as a courier for bin Laden. Rahim also helped facilitate bin Laden’s escape during the 2002 battle in Tora Bora in Nangahar province.

    Just prior to his capture, Rahim was providing aid to Taliban, al Qaeda, and allied extremist groups operating in Afghanistan.

  • Coalition targets al Qaeda's network in the Iraqi North March 5, 2008. As al Qaeda in Iraq is targeted in the northern city of Mosul, pressure continues to be applied to the terror network nationwide. US and Iraqi security forces have killed or captured 26 senior leaders of al Qaeda in Iraq's terror network over the past several weeks, Major General Kevin Bergner, the spokesman for Multinational Forces Iraq said in a briefing in Baghdad on March 5. Many of those killed or captured have come from the northern regions, where al Qaeda is struggling to re-establish its network during a joint US and Iraqi military onslaught.

  • "Inside Iraqi Politics" is a special series dedicated to examining political progress in Iraq, with a focus on issues that affect the country's stability and the reconciliation between ethnic and religious sects. The product of more than a dozen interviews with American and Iraqi officials and months of research, the series presents a more comprehensive view of factors that slow progress beyond sectarian interest, including the rapid growth of the government, administrative inexperience, corruption, and the structure of the executive and legislative branches outlined in the Iraqi Constitution.