101st Escorts Iraqi Leaders Surveying Industry, Power Facilities
By Sgt. Robert Woodward
Special to American Forces Press Service
MOSUL, Iraq, Sept. 23, 2003 The Army's 101st Airborne Division escorted the civilian leadership of the northern Nineveh province Sept. 22 on a survey of the region's industrial and power facilities, helping to broaden the Mosul- based interim government's influence here.
The tour began when Maj. Gen. David H. Petraeus, the division's commander, flew with Gov. Ghanim Al Basso and other members of the Mosul City Council aboard Black Hawk helicopters to the town of Sinjar for the reopening of the largest cement factory in Iraq.
According to Jamil Fadil, control room supervisor, the plant is operating at 50 percent capacity and still turns out 50,000 tons of cement a day. Plans are in place to refurbish the second of two production lines.
"The Nineveh province is already leading the way in Iraq," Petraeus told the Iraqi engineers and laborers who were on hand. "You did this on your own."
More and more, U.S. troops in the north are becoming strictly a security force, as Iraqis begin to take on engineering, medical, and entrepreneurial roles. Even the security of coalition sites and key infrastructure is being gradually assumed by local forces, such as the U.S.-trained Iraqi Civil Defense Corps.
The delegation next flew to the Ayn Zalah oil pump station to resolve a security problem that resulted in an attack on the facility the night of Sept. 21. Although minimal damage occurred, the coordination of local guards, including those provided by the oil company and the local government, needed improvement to ensure round-the-clock protection at all sites.
Five previous attacks on northern oil facilities had been repulsed by guards, but no guards were present during the recent attack.
According to Saad Salid, the guards had left their post, apparently disgruntled over pay. The solution agreed on involved having the oil company augment pay for government guards who receive the maximum amount authorized by the coalition, $50, which is $70 less than oil company guards make.
While there, the delegation also learned that although the current level of oil production will help the province meet its oil-for-electricity agreement with Syria, two more pumps can be installed to increase revenue and provide more crude to local refineries.
The oil refinery in Qayyarah, for example, at one time considered too damaged to repair, is slowly being restored to operation and will soon need a steady supply of crude.
More than 9,000 tons of old asphalt is being reheated at the refinery for pressing road work, and work is under way to restore asphalt production by Oct. 7.
When fully operational, the plant will be the one of the largest asphalt producers in the Middle East, according to Salih Hamid, the asphalt component manager. More work is planned at the refinery to allow production of benzene, diesel and kerosene.
"Success for Iraqis is success for us," Petraeus said. "You couldn't have this kind of initiative under the old regime. Here you can see the beginnings of a bright future for Iraq."
(Sgt. Robert Woodward is assigned to the 101st Airborne Division.)