Army Commander in Baghdad Meets With Iraqi Provincial Leaders
By Spc. Karl Johnson, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
BAGHDAD, May 4, 2006 The commanding general of Multinational Division Baghdad met with four prominent Iraqi governors at the Falaniko House in the International Zone here April 28 to reaffirm the leaders' joint dedication to continue working together and to discuss concerns.
Army Maj. Gen. J.D. Thurman, commanding general of Multinational Division Baghdad, meets with Iraqi leaders at the Falaniko House in the International Zone April. Governors from Baghdad, Babil, Karbala and Najaf provinces attended and discussed concerns, and reaffirmed their dedication to a peaceful Iraq. Photo by Spc. Karl Johnson, USA
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
As Iraq returns to a state of normalcy, the people will begin to see a shift toward more civil control and less military presence and influence, officials said.
During the meeting, Iraqi provincial government leaders from Karbala, Babil, Najaf and Baghdad provinces and coalition officials discussed and assessed security in each of the provinces as part of a long-term goal of transferring security from coalition forces to the Iraqi provincial governments.
"This is a decisive moment in the history of Iraq," Army Maj. Gen. J.D. Thurman, commander of Multinational Division Baghdad, said. "The positive steps we have made with the last three elections and with the formation of the new government are very important."
Thurman met with the governors and provincial council chairmen of the four provinces in a series of meetings that involved each set of provincial leaders and their corresponding local coalition forces commanders. He stressed the importance of maintaining open communications to each of the governors and that "this was a decisive time for Iraq." He also stated that he was committed to not allow terrorists to disrupt the formation of the new government.
Central to civil control is the enforcement of civil and criminal statutes, Thurman said. "Adhering to the rule of law is fundamental to the provincial security transition process," he said.
"Every success we have marginalizes the terrorists," added Mueen Al-Majed, Baghdad provincial council chairman. "When we succeed, the terrorists fail."
Both sides expressed optimism about the recent political progress made. They also stated that, realistically, much work remains before Iraq can truly be free.
"The Iraqi people have sacrificed a lot to not have to live in fear and to have a future of freedom," Thurman said. "We cannot allow the terrorists to steal that future."
The overarching theme of each of the meetings was one of cooperation and the desire to ensure that each of the provinces was fully prepared before taking on the task of provincial security. The Iraqi governors in attendance wholeheartedly expressed their desire to continue to work with coalition forces to defeat the terrorists and to end the violence in their country. Only when working as one team can they accomplish their goals, Najaf Gov. Assad Altaee Abu Guilal said.
Thurman focused on the need to improve coordination between Iraqi and coalition Forces, stressing the importance of an overall rule of law as a key to peace. He also stressed the need to continue to restore the essential services all Iraqis need to carry on with their lives. "My number-one concern is to not let the terrorists or anyone else disrupt the formation of this new government," he said.
The Iraqi leaders agreed. "We want to work with coalition forces to honestly assess our ability to take over security," Karbala governor Dr. Aqilsaid.
"When we work as a team, it drives (terrorist leader Abu Musab al-) Zarqawi mad, and anything that drives him mad is a good thing," added Mueen Hameed Abd Al Majed, the Baghdad provincial council chairman.
Thurman said he believes that "everyday Iraqi citizens" can perform a key part in helping stop the terrorists. "We need to let the people know that they play an important role in the security of Iraq," he said.
He pointed to the successes of the national tip hotline as a just cause for the governors to push for more civilian support. "Our tip line helps us to stop terrorists every day," Thurman said. "Approximately 80 percent of the tips we receive are actionable."
One area of concern that leaders on both sides agreed on was the necessity to reintegrate all armed militias back into Iraqi society. "There are simply too many guns in this country right now," Thurman said. "There is no room for extra armed militias in the streets. If they want to fight for Iraq, they need to pledge their allegiance to Iraq."
The Iraqi governors brought several ideas to the table on how to more effectively deal with violence in Iraq. These included the formation of neighborhood-watch organizations and a governmental weapon buy-back program. Thurman agreed that both ideas deserved further discussion.
The leaders ended the day in agreement that the meeting helped each of them in knowing where the others stood on many key issues and also with the knowledge that both groups are totally dedicated to the future of Iraq.
"Only when we work together can we achieve our goals," Thurman said. "It allows us to better see our shortcomings and helps us to more easily solve them."
(Army Spc. Karl Johnson is assigned to the 363rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.)