October 24, 2008

Security Portfolio Turned Over to Babil Province

Gov Salam Saleh Mahdi Al-Muslimawi addresses the crowd at the PIC ceremony
A view from the parade route of the reconstructed walls of ancient Babylon

On October 23, Babil was the latest province in Iraq to transition to Provincial Iraqi control (PIC) of security. The event was cause for a big ceremony next to the Babylonian ruins that received lots of coverage in the Baghdad and regional media (e.g., Al Jazeera) but little beyond that. The handover of security responsibilities in Babil leaves only the province of Wasit in southern Iraq that has yet to make the transition.

At a celebration prior to the PIC signing, Babil Governor Salam Saleh Mahdi Al-Muslimawi said the event was "a gift from God." He was speaking to a crowd of several hundred people gathered for the event that took place next to the ancient ruins of Babylon. Others addressing the crowd include Prime Minister Maliki's National Security Advisor, Mowaffaq Al-Rubaie, Multinational Iraq Corps (MNC-I) Commander Lieutenant General Austin and Provincial Council Chairman Muhammed Ali Hussain Al-Massoudi. After the speeches, Governor Salam and Major General Oates, Commander of MultiNational Division-South, signed the formal document establishing Provincial Iraqi Control (PIC).

In his remarks, Lieutenant General Austin noted the real improvements in security over the last year, during which insurgent attacks in Babil had declined 80%. He stressed the continuing commitment of the Coalition to partner with the ISF in building on those security gains, providing a basis for improvements in essential services for Babil's citizens in the areas of water, sewage, electricity and transportation.

BG Abdul Ameer, 31st Brigade 8th Army, with me after the PIC ceremony

He had a uniform that would have made a British Field Marshall proud

Units from the Iraqi Army, Police, SWAT, and Civil Response Teams paraded before a reviewing stand in celebration of PIC. National Security Advisor Rubaie had several praise singers shout acclaim for the achievements of Prime Minister Mailiki's Government. LTG Austin used the opportunity to announce to the crowd that the province of Wasit, the only one in the south that has not transitioned to Provincial Iraqi Control, would do so in another week. With that, Iraqi Security Forces will have the lead responsibility for security in all of southern Iraq, reflecting the gains of the last year. That "gift from God" was one that both Governor Salam and Minister Rubaie'e recognized as the fruit of a joint effort by Iraq and the Coalition, working as partners in Babil to consolidate security, move ahead on reconstruction and strengthen democracy and governing institutions.

The ceremonies were followed by a lunch for invited guest in the Presidential compound along the banks of the Hillah River within the protected site of the ancient Babylonian ruins, where the province's future and fabled past found reflection in the events of the day. One observer, remarking on the significance of the day, said that it was "the beginning of the end" of the Coalition's mission. That may turn out to be true, hopefully so, but it is not yet a certainty.

October 21, 2008

Iftar dinner in Hilla.

This news may be a little dated, but it was just reported by the US Embassy: PRT Shares Iftar with Iraqis in Babil Province.

Saying good-by to Al-Tufail tribe leader Sheik Al-Shanan at the end of Iftar.

Sheikh Ali Shanan:
"The [PRT's] yearly tradition of hosting an Iftar dinner during Ramadan is an excellent opportunity for members of Babylon's local government to come together with local NGO representatives, tribal leaders and businessmen.”

He added, “Such an invitation reflects mutual respect of the religious rituals and rites of Christianity and Islam. On behalf of myself and all the tribal leaders in Hillah, I extend our thanks to the REO and the PRT."