By Melinda L. Larson
American Forces Press Service
Aug. 26, 2007 - Recent strides in Iraq's economic development, including the reopening of a flour mill last week, are occurring as Iraqi and coalition forces disrupt al Qaeda and other terrorist elements, a senior military spokesman in Iraq said today. "Local production of flour in a previously dormant mill is a small but meaningful step in Baqubah that demonstrates that as al Qaeda in Iraq is driven out, economic growth emerges," Navy Rear Adm. Mark I. Fox, deputy spokesman for Multinational Force Iraq, said at a news conference.
The flour mill in Baqubah, closed for nearly a year, is capable of producing 200 tons of finished flour per day and will employ about 100 mill workers and several truck drivers. The reopening of the mill was the result of a collaborative partnership between the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, Stryker Brigade Combat Team, and Diyala provincial leadership, Fox said.
"As we focus on pressuring al Qaeda, we gain tactical momentum and economic developments and reconstruction are now possible," Fox added. "As al Qaeda is driven out, normal activities like banking and commerce flourish."
Disrupting al Qaeda while trying to develop an economy and a democracy takes a dose of diplomacy.
On the diplomatic front, the State Department's Provincial Reconstruction Teams, interagency expeditionary teams designed to develop stable economic and political environments at the provincial level, are also making meaningful strides, according to the State Department's counselor for public affairs, another featured speaker at today's news conference.
"The role of the Provincial Reconstructions Teams is to help provincial governments develop a transparent and sustained capability not only to govern, but to increase security, rule of law, promote political and economic development, and provide the administration necessary to meet the basic needs of the local population," said Philip Reeker.
There are now 29 Provincial Reconstruction Teams at work throughout Iraq's 18 provinces. A conference that begins tomorrow in Baghdad will gather provincial governors from the four northern provinces, Reeker added.
"A great example of the progress we're making is the conference of northern province governors. It is an opportunity for delegations to share issues that affect the four northern provinces and discuss solutions," Reeker said.
Turning to operations, Fox told the Baghdad press corps that joint operations between coalition and Iraqi security forces have doubled compared to this time last year. He added the total number of attacks against civilians and security forces are at the lowest level since August 2006.
"Although we have made progress, we know we face a tough fight against an enemy that is willing to indiscriminately kill innocent men, women and children," Fox said. "We will continue to work closely with the government of Iraq and Iraqi security forces to pursue the enemy and build on our tactical momentum."