By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
July 23, 2007 - Surge-related crackdowns on extremists combined with infrastructure improvements are helping to resuscitate Baghdad's business and entertainment districts, U.S. and Iraqi officials said yesterday. "Protecting Baghdad's citizens is a cornerstone of all of our efforts" as part of the Iraqi capital city's anti-insurgent campaign, Operation Fardh al Qanoon, Navy Rear Adm. Mark I. Fox told journalists at a Baghdad news conference.
However, reconstruction projects, economic improvements, infrastructure investments and other major renovations are part of overall efforts to help Iraq move forward, he said. Iraq's recovery in the post-Saddam Hussein era is dependent on progress being made in both the security and economic realms, he said.
Fardh al Qanoon, an Iraqi phrase meaning "enforcing the law," began Feb. 13. It calls for dividing Baghdad into 10 districts and creating joint U.S.-Iraqi security stations to put pressure on insurgents. The campaign is being run in conjunction with the surge of U.S. and Iraqi forces into Baghdad and other areas used as extremist havens.
Fox noted that surge-reinforced U.S. and Iraqi military units are pushing the insurgents of the capital city into outlying areas.
At the same time, Baghdad's business and entertainment centers are starting to come back, thanks to improved security and the completion of thousands of reconstruction projects, Fox said.
As of July 6, more than 3,400 reconstruction projects worth more than $5.5 billion involving schools, highways, bridges, electric power stations, housing, water treatment and sewage plants, hospitals and medical clinics had been completed across Iraq, Fox said.
Another 582 projects worth $2.6 billion are ongoing, he added, noting that another 4,300 projects costing $7.9 billion are planned.
Tahseen al Shaikhly, spokesman for Operation Fardh al Qanoon, attended the news conference with Fox. He concurred with the admiral that things are looking up in Baghdad. The security operation there possesses both military and economic components, he said.
In addition to security programs, "most of the other activities deal with providing services for the Iraqi people," the Iraqi official said. More than $35 billion worth of infrastructure-improvement projects, such as street-paving and bridge construction, hospital and medical clinic rehabilitation, as well as electric power and water treatment plant work, have been completed in Baghdad alone, he said.
All of these reconstruction programs improve the quality of life for Baghdad's citizens and contribute to the fight against terrorism, he said.
"There are good things that are happening. We are working on the water and the electricity, of course," Shaikhly said.
As Baghdad's quality of life increases, surge operations are helping to improve security in Iraq's capital city, Fox said. The admiral said he's planning to eat dinner in Baghdad's renowned Abu Nuwas Street restaurant and entertainment district.
"Abu Nuwas Street is famous in Iraq and in this region for being a place where people gather and have a good time," Fox said. "There are some very significant and good signs over there."
Abu Nuwas Street is experiencing a social and economic renaissance, Fox said, citing the building of several new restaurants in the area, as well as refurbished parks. "I've got a reservation in one of those restaurants over there to have a good fish meal," Fox said.