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Phantom Phoenix Allows Provincial Governor to Visit Local Officials

Special to American Forces Press Service

MUQDADIYAH, Iraq, Jan. 16, 2008 – Diyala's provincial governor visited local representatives of qada, or county, governments in the Muqdadiyah area at Forward Operating Base Normandy here Jan. 14.

The meeting brought Gov. Raad Rasheed Hameed al-Mullah together with the provincial directors general for essential services, including water, electricity, health, education, municipalities and oil, and their municipal counterparts.

Army Maj. Nicholas Difiore, reconciliations engagement officer for the 2nd Infantry Division’s 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, said the meeting gave local leaders a critical forum to voice the needs of their village to the governor.

In the past, the security situation did not allow meetings like this to take place. Operation Raider Harvest, part of the countrywide Operation Phantom Phoenix, is clearing the region of al Qaeda influence and providing stability to the area, which allowed the local leaders to meet face to face, officials said.

Other attending representatives were Staff Maj. Gen. Ab-Dal-Karim, Diyala Operations Command commander; Sheik Zary al-Fayaz, assistant deputy to the Diyala government council; and Muqdadiyah Mayor Najem Abdulah Ahmed.

"So far we have received no support from the provincial government out here in Muqdadiyah," the mayor said through a translator. "We hope through meetings like the one held today we can improve the situation and more support will come our way in the future."

During Operation Raider Harvest, coalition forces are providing security and rebuilding services for the northern Diyala River Valley. The meeting was aimed at transferring that responsibility to the Diyala provincial government.

"Most of my support comes from (coalition forces), whether it is morale, finance or military," Ahmed said. "Coalition Forces continually support us with reconstruction efforts and programs throughout the qada.

"What the province has offered in the past has been very little in terms of support," said he continued, "but our hopes over the next few months are that this will change, we will integrate more into the province and we will gain more support from the provincial government."

Difiore agreed that Muqdadiyah had no the linkage between qada and province, attributing that to the security situation. "Now, after we have done many of these decisive operations like Raider Harvest, the security situation is improving. The technocrats feel much more comfortable traveling these roads, and now we can see that linkage between province and qada strengthening."

More meetings of the Diyala provincial government and Northern Diyala River Valley qada governments are in the works.

(From a Multinational Corps Iraq news release.)

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