By Donna Miles
WASHINGTON, Oct. 2, 2006 – Iraq's future success depends on the ability of its provinces to assume control of their governance, their security and their prosperity, the spokesman for Multinational Force Iraq said today in the southern Iraqi city of Hillah. Army Maj. Gen. William Caldwell spoke today during a meeting with the Babil Provincial Reconstruction Team, one of seven PRTs up and running in Iraq.
Two of the seven PRTs, in Diyala and Salahuddin provinces, are slated to be inaugurated later this week and the following week, respectively, he said. Ultimately 10 PRTs will be operating around the country.
Caldwell noted progress in developing Iraq's security forces, which now number about 325,000, but said that's just one part of the equation for the country's long-term success.
"The other part we talk about is unity and prosperity," he said. "And to achieve those, there must be governance, there must be local businesses, there must be the ability for provincial and local councils to meet and provide that direction and guidance."
PRTs in Iraq are helping make this possible through training programs and other activities designed to bolster local governance, he said.
Army Lt. Col. Kirk Stemple, deputy team leader for the Babil PRT, cited examples of more than 600 reconstruction projects throughout the region under way or already completed by coalition forces. These include several electric distribution projects, and work at several hospitals and health clinics to make them operational.
But not all projects within the province are clearly visible, Stemple pointed out. New underground water lines, for example, are important but easily overlooked improvements that will improve water quality for the local people, he said.
He reminded people that improvements can't always happen as quickly as people would like, particularly in light of Iraq's dilapidated infrastructure that suffers from years of neglect. "The answer or the correction for them does not come overnight," he said. "It requires patience and long-term commitment."
"This is the key to the future of Iraq," Caldwell said. "Everything else is progressing and moving along, but this is what will really allow the people of Iraq to be back in control of their destinies."