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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Dhi Qar: Rich past, hopeful future

Monday, 18 September 2006
By Staff Sgt. James Sherrill
124th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

BAGHDAD — With all its history in tow, Dhi Qar province in southern Iraq is looking toward the future. It’s scheduled later this month to become the second of Iraq’s 18 provinces to be transferred to provincial Iraqi control.

This means Coalition security forces will pull back and let the local provincial police and Iraqi military handle security of the province, a key step for the eventual withdrawal of Coalition forces from the country.

Both Coalition officials and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki have said they hope to have all 18 of the country’s provinces under Iraqi control by the end of next year.

Dhi Qar province is an archeologist’s dreamland. It contains the site of the ancient city of Ur, purported to be the hometown of the biblical figure Abraham. Near the ruins of the ancient city stands the Ziggurat of Ur, a towering ancient temple dating back more than 4,000 years.

Iraqis and tourists are now able to freely visit this area, something they could not do under the oppression of Saddam Hussein, said Maj. Gen. Kurt A. Cichowski, Multi-National Force - Iraq,Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategy, Plans and Assessment.

Brig. Gen. Carmine De Pascale, right, commander of the Italian Joint Task Force - Iraq, along with British Soldiers, climbs the stairs of the ancient Ziggurat of Ur in Dhi Qar province. Italian troops have shouldered much of the work in preparing the province for transfer to provincial Iraqi control later this month. Department of Defense photo by Air Force Capt. Thomas Montgomery. Cichowski, speaking to reporters from Baghdad Sept. 19, said there are four key conditions to determine a province’s eligibility for transfer: the capability of the Iraqi security forces, threat levels in the province, local government capacity, and the provincial government's relationship with Coalition forces.

“We are always in that process … of evaluating the four areas in all of the provinces. When the conditions are met for the provinces in the remaining areas then they will transfer too,” Cichowski said.

“I firmly believe that the Dhi Qar provincial committee is well ready to run their province.”

The responsibility for getting Dhi Qar ready to transfer has been shouldered mostly by members of the Italian contingent there, led by Brig. Gen. Carmine De Pascale, commander of the Italian Joint Task Force – Iraq.

“This result was attained by Dhi Qar provincial authorities and Coalition forces through a long and intense period of sacrifices and efforts,” De Pascale said.

About 1,500 Italian troops, along with Romanian, Australian and some British Soldiers, have been based out of Camp Mittica, just outside Ali Base, near Ur. The task force has worked closely with the local government in the province – training and equipping the local Police and Army, mentoring government officials, and organizing construction projects like schools and clinics.

“In the next days, Coalition forces in the province of Dhi Qar will hand over the security responsibility to Iraqi civilian authorities. This result is a clear evidence of the capability of Iraqi security forces, Police (and) Army, of guaranteeing security in Dhi Qar autonomously," De Pascale said. "It is also evidence of the maturity of the population in Dhi Qar. From now on, they will be able to contribute to the security, the social and economic growth of the province of Dhi Qar and Iraq."

The Coalition transferred neighboring Al Muthanna province on July 13. Since then, Al Muthanna’s local police and military forces have had full responsibility for the province's security and continue to run operations there without Coalition prodding.

“I wish all the best to the provincial leaders and to the people of Dhi Qar,” De Pascale said.

A ceremony marking the transfer to provincial Iraqi control is scheduled for later this month

Category: (Military) Press Release and Iraq.
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