Projects in Mosul Point to a Better Life for Iraq
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
BAGHDAD, Dec. 21, 2005 Mosul is a microcosm of Iraq.
It's the second-largest city in the country, and contains all kinds of people who make up the ethnic stew that is this nation.
Shiia Arab, Sunni Arab, Kurds, Turkomen, ethnic Iranians, Assyrians and many other ethnicities settled in Mosul, taking advantage of its location astride ancient trading routes, and amid fertile land that turned the region into the wheat belt of the Middle East.
The city is the capital of Ninewa province. In Judeo-Christian heritage, Ninevah was the home of the prophets Jonah and Isaiah, and it has the largest Christian population in Iraq. Before the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, there was even a thriving Jewish population in the city.
Under Saddam Hussein, the city remained a trading hub even as the infrastructure slowly decayed. With its well-educated population, the city did better than other areas of the country.
Upon liberation in 2003, the city was among the first to elect a local governing council. The council - working closely with the 101st Airborne Division - began a number of public works projects to rehabilitate the infrastructure. The Iraqi National Guard began as a small unit in Mosul that helped airborne troopers patrol the city and region. Local officers policed the streets, and in early 2004, the city looked like a success story for a new Iraq.
But its strategic location proved to be its undoing. Success attracted those who didn't want progress in the country. Some small groups wanted to old regime back, while others looked to the Islamic fundamentalism espoused by al Qaeda. The ideologically opposed groups consummated a marriage of convenience and launched attacks against the coalition and Iraqi police.
The local police crumbled in the face of the April 2004 attacks. Recruited locally, they became the victims of an intimidation campaign that threatened families and friends. American troops had to come into the city to restore peace and order.
The enemy used roadside bombs, car bombs, small-arms fire, indirect fire and a campaign of intimidation against the coalition forces, what police remained and the population.
To counter the enemy, coalition forces provided security until Iraqi troops and police could be trained well enough to stand up to the insurgents. Iraqi public order units from outside the region came in to help the coalition provide the breathing space. At the same time, the coalition sped up municipal and provincial projects designed to employ Iraqis and benefit all in the region.
The projects, officials said, are an integral part of the strategy - the carrot rather than the stick. Coalition officials worked closely with city officials to prioritize the projects and then to secure funding for them.
A total of 194 projects costing $182 million have begun to pay off for the citizens of Mosul. Just in the past year, embassy officials said, the coalition has finished 56 projects for a total of $61.5 million.
"This shows the people of the city that we are serious, that we are concerned with their welfare," said an embassy official speaking on background. "It also shows them there is a benefit to working with the Americans."
Water and sanitation projects are the big-money items in Mosul, as they are in most of the country. Coalition projects have rehabilitated, upgraded or just flat built sewers in many neighborhoods in Mosul, officials said. Coalition projects also provided potable water to the city and installed or improved water mains.
More remains to be done, and almost $15 million is budgeted for water and sewage upgrades. The problem in Mosul is exacerbated by the fact that there are no sewage treatment plants. The new government will have to deal with that fact, U.S. embassy officials told American Forces Press Service.
Electricity is another major concern and where the coalition has invested in projects. Mosul Dam, across the Tigris River, provides roughly 500 megawatts of power to Mosul and the surrounding area. This still isn't enough to feed the demand. Coalition projects look to build more generating capacity and to improve the network carrying power to homes. Four projects worth almost $33 million have been completed, and another 17 projects worth almost $40 million are moving forward.
Coalition funding is helping Iraqi health care to get back on its feet. Projects to rehabilitate or build hospitals and clinics are under way. Other funds will go to getting equipment. Overall, almost $30 million is earmarked for the health care infrastructure in Mosul. Security at the sites remains the biggest concern, and local officials are working with Iraqi Army and police commanders to alleviate the problem.
Mosul is still a transportation hub for the region. The coalition is investing in roads, railways, bridges and the airport. The projects are worth almost $25 million.
Other projects build fire and police stations, restore parks and open areas, buy vehicles and equipment, help local farmers, and improve the area's communications.
Terror incidents in Mosul have dropped. Officials say Mosulis do not want to see the gains they have made lost to terrorists. A tip line installed a year ago now receives hundreds and sometimes thousands of calls each day. The infrastructure improvements have led to private-sector jobs in the city.
Security remains a challenge, but with each day, the terrorists are marginalized more and more, officials said. Sunni groups - the backbone of the insurgency - voted in the Dec. 15 election and are playing a part in the political life of the city and region.
With the city being a microcosm of Iraq, perhaps it has lessons to the country writ large, officials said.