U.S. Senators Walk Streets of Iskandariyah
March 19, 2008
JOINT SECURITY STATION ISKAN, Iraq (Army News Service, March 29) - A delegation of senators visited Iskandariyah March 17 where they discussed the security, governance and economic progress of the city with Coalition forces.
Senators John McCain, of Arizona; Joseph Lieberman, of Connecticut; and Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina were accompanied by Maj Gen. Rick Lynch, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division.
The group began their visit at the Iskandariyah Joint Security Station, where Lynch and Col. Thomas James, commander of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Inf. Div., briefed the senators, giving them an overview of the area of operations surrounding Iskandariyah, and the current status of the developing community.
James briefed the delegates on the brigade's current focus: securing the population, defeating sectarian violence, interdicting accelerants into Baghdad, and increasing the capacity of the Iraqi Security Forces, Government of Iraq and the Iraqi economy.
Lynch stressed to the senators the focus for Iskandariyah and other communities at similar stages of development was no longer security, but stability, adding that Multi-National Division - Center is focused on capacity-building. He referred to money as a "munition," saying it was, "more important than bullets" in MND-C's efforts to assist the Iraqis in increasing stability.
Lynch also said provincial elections are a necessary first step to further stabilization of the region.
Following the briefing, the group walked through the Iskandariyah market. The senators stopped to interact with local citizens before arriving at the nahia council building. There, the senators asked members of the council for their perspectives on community issues such as schools and local services.
Council Chair Sabah Kafaji emphasized that Iraqis have only one choice right now - to move forward and not backward.
Lynch also emphasized to the senators the importance of the Sons of Iraq programs in both providing employment, and helping make the region safer for its citizens, ISF and Coalition forces.
Lynch said Coalition forces have al Qaeda "on the ropes" and the ISF are beginning to wage a more aggressive fight against criminal elements.
In response to a question from Lieberman about the level of support the GoI has given the Sunni population, James said it recently funded several projects in the province, including a street-paving project in nearby Jurf as Sakhr, a primarily Sunni community. Getchell said Iskandariyah's population is currently about 60 percent Shia and 40 percent Sunni.
James also told the senators ISF leaders do not consider themselves Sunni or Shia, but Iraqi.
Also present for the visit were Lt. Col. Michael Getchell, commander of 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, attached to 4th BCT, 3rd Inf. Div., Capt. Mike Penney, Company A, 2-502nd Inf. Regt.; Col. Ali, Iskandariyah Iraqi Police chief; and Lt. Col. Sa'eed, commander of 2nd Battalion, 4th Brigade, 8th Iraqi Army Division.