By Staff Sgt. Jon Cupp; 1st BCT, 1st Cav. Div. Public AffairsNovember 19, 2007
CAMP TAJI, Iraq - Senior leader of the Iraqi Army along with Government of Iraq officials from eight ministries; Sunni and Shia tribal sheiks and other leaders met with the people of Sab Al Bor, Iraq Nov. 17 to discuss and highlight resettlement initiatives and progress as a result of sustained security throughout the city.
Iraqi Army Lt. Gen. Abud Qanbar, commander, Baghdad Operations Command; Dr. Ahmed Challabi, Operation Fahrd Al Qanoon services committee chairman; Saabar Nabact Al Asaway, deputy governor of Baghdad; Ahmed Abdul Ameer Abd, the deputy Minister of Oil; Maeen Al Kathamy, Head of the Provincial Council; and Maj. Gen. Wajih Hameed, Kharkh area commander were a few of the guests and speakers. Other guests at the meeting included sheik Hassan Al Sudany, a representative from the Grand Ayatollah Sistani-the most prominent religious Shia leader in Iraq, and deputy ministers and representatives from the Ministries of Health, Housing, Education, Commerce, Interior for Police Affairs, Municipalities, and Agriculture.
Local city council leaders and sheiks hosted the event while Multi-National Division-Baghdad senior leaders from the 1st "Ironhorse" Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division and members of the brigade's Embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team, Baghdad EPRT 5, were on hand to assist in facilitating the meeting.
The event began at a joint security station (JSS) where U.S. and Iraqi press engaged in a question and answer session with the government panel and a town hall-type meeting allowed local concerned citizens of the city to express their concerns on essential services and other issues.
Once the town hall meeting closed, the government leaders, Iraqi Army officials and tribal sheiks walked the streets of the city to tour a local medical clinic and discuss shortfalls and challenges facing the public health system. From there, the leaders traveled to the Al Balquis school where they met with local educators.
After returning to the JSS, the leaders dined together and talked about plans of action to restore essential services.
The government officials then visited a local water pumping station and another local school.
Over the course of the event, some of the main topics for discussion included the improvement of essential services and public works in order to entice displaced citizens to move back into their residences and the city. In addition, the government officials looked at the way ahead for bringing jobs into the area; fixing roads; the hiring of doctors and nurses to staff medical clinics; hiring certified teachers for local schools; creating new systems to collect and control trash and sewage and efforts to provide drinking water-which is in short supply-to the city's residents.
Lt. Gen. Qanbar said that since his last visit to the area, security in the region has increased which has allowed for a more stable environment.
"The people of Sab Al Bor will return to their homes as long as this continues," Qanbar added. "In order for the people to stay and the city to prosper, essential services and public works must be improved. This is the only way in which resettlement will work in the area."
Dr. Challabi of the OFAQ services committee who served as the keynote speaker during the event said he was very receptive to the concerns of the local citizens and looked forward to finding ways to help them with the problems they face due to the lack of essential services in the city.
After receiving a list of issues which are in need of attention in the area, Challabi agreed to sign a series of promissory notes to ensure that the city is allocated the resources it needs from the Iraqi government to improve essential services and bring jobs to the area.
Challabi also directed Sab Al Bor's city manager to hire a work brigade of 500 to 1,000 local citizens within each district to pave the roads and to help resource jobs for the city.
Brig. Gen. John F. Campbell, Multi-National Division-Baghdad's deputy commanding general for maneuver, concluded the event, addressing the council members and government officials about the 'irreversible momentum' in the initiative of resettlement and progress in essential services in Sab Al Bor and Iraq as a whole, while also stressing the importance of collaboration and partnership between the local council members and Iraq's ministerial representatives.
"This has to be a joint effort but, ultimately, an Iraqi solution," said Campbell in his closing remarks.