While the stability of the Iraqi government continues to progress as U.S. forces prepare to draw down, everyday issues between both sides remain on the table.

In mid-April, Col. Steven Bullimore, 17th Fires Brigade commander and Lt. Gen. Muhammad Jawad Hawaydi, the Basra Operations Center commander, held a conference with the tribal leaders of several districts in Basra Province to discuss topics that are prevalent throughout the communities.

"We addressed multiple issues across Basra province thanks to the suggestions and feedback that we've received from the shaykhs," Bullimore said. "However, what concerns me is the lack of voice that the shaykhs have with the Provincial Government."

Upon the arrival of the 17th Fires Brigade, based at Fort Lewis, Wash., to Basra Province, Bullimore has met regularly with local tribal leaders to establish a working relationship. That relationship building continues, even though the brigade is scheduled to leave in July.

"After each of our meetings with the shaykhs, I listened to the suggestions and concerns of the Shaykhs and conveyed them to the Iraqi Provincial Government," he said. "Every project that has been funded by the U.S. was ultimately approved by the Iraqi Government, so it's critical that we connect the shaykhs with the government."

During the meeting, the shaykhs brought up the quality of work provided by certain contractors on construction projects.

"We have noticed that some of the projects are being sub-contracted, allowing the original contractor to pay someone else a lower fee to complete the project while retaining a substantial amount of the original contract price," said Shaykh Sbieh Al Kramshy.

Kramshy added that the quality of the work does not equate to the amount of money spent.

Gen. Muhammad said corruption is an ongoing problem that officials are trying to resolve by better monitoring.

"I have faced issues of corrupt contractors before and one of the things that helped me justify the removal of that contractor from obtaining future contracts was the shaykh constantly providing me with specific evidence of the fraudulent practices."

Bullimore closed the meeting by addressing his most pressing concern.

"Each of you represents the men, women and children in your respective districts," Bullimore said. "As U.S. Forces drawdown here in Basrah, we must ensure that you have a prominent voice with the Provincial Government so that the needs of the people can be heard and met."