By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
Feb. 6, 2008 - Much progress in the security, local governance and economic realms has been achieved in the Iraqi city of Narhwan over the past four months, a senior U.S. commander posted there said today. "We've seen significant gains at the local level in governance" in Narhwan and its environs, Army Lt. Col. Mark Sullivan, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division's 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery Regiment, said during a conference call with military analysts.
Efforts to bring together city council officials, local tribal leaders, police, and Iraqi government representatives have paid off, Sullivan said. Now, everyone's concerns are discussed at regular governance meetings, where joint solutions are identified and pursued, he said.
"We really believe that these are Iraqi problems that require Iraqi solutions," Sullivan said.
Recent anti-insurgent operations involving U.S. and Iraqi security forces with help from local citizens have made the area safer, Sullivan said, but he cautioned that his area of operations remains a dangerous place. Yet, Sullivan said, he's optimistic that security and other gains achieved in Narhwan in recent months will be lasting.
"The local population has embraced our presence, and we believe the extremists have been severely disrupted as a result," Sullivan said.
Today, local citizens are "performing a vital role in protecting the neighborhoods where they operate." Since November, citizens groups have provided 11 tips to coalition forces that have resulted in the discovery of 12 ammunition caches, he said.
As security continues to improve in Narhwan, a municipality of about 100,000 people, some citizens-group members will transition into local Iraqi security forces, Sullivan said. Other members, he added, will join local economic enterprises.
Sullivan cited the revival of a Narhwan brick factory that now employs about 2,500 people. Discussions between local leaders and national government officials brought about an increased allocation of fuel and electricity to the factory, he explained.
As a result, brick production will be greatly increased, with a projected gain of between 4,500 and 6,000 additional jobs over the next six weeks, Sullivan said. The added jobs "will have a great impact, not only on the city of Narhwan," he said, but also across the region.
Other economic programs being developed in the Narhwan area include water, sewage and schools projects, Sullivan said. These and other reconstruction programs are boosting the local economy, he said.
Sullivan and his staff have identified 39 economic projects for Narhwan and its vicinity, for which about $1.5 million in coalition-provided funding has been spent. The Iraqi government, he added, has provided about $2.9 million for Narhwan projects.
Sullivan's unit has performed other duties in Iraq. From March until September, he and his artillery soldiers were stationed at the Camp Bucca detention facility before being transferred to the Narhwan area.