AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq --
Western Al Anbar was considered ‘the wild west’ at the beginning of the insurgency in 2004. It wasn’t until after the Anbar awakening in 2006 that the area began to move forward democratically. Now civic leaders and politicians have assembled together to discuss better ways to reallocate provincial funding.
Regimental Combat Team 8 and members of the embedded Provisional Reconstruction Team organized an Iraqi Civic Leaders Conference to discuss solutions to city budget problems at Al Asad Air Base, May 4.
“We should prioritize what our people say they need,” said Farhan Fatikhan Farhan, mayor of Al Qa’im, Iraq.
“Some citizens don’t have a house to live in,” Farhan said. “We need to make sure there is an opportunity for the unemployed to have jobs.”
The Civic Leaders Conference helped establish the framework needed for the mayors, civil engineers, and local civic leadership to transform their ideas into detailed plans; structuring a way forward in developing essential services and other key development projects that will foster the stability necessary for economic growth throughout the western Al Anbar province.
City planners, district officials and town mayors separated into working groups to discuss how each town would solve future problems. In order to address these issues the civic leaders acknowledged the significant role the provincial planning office plays in synchronizing all planning efforts.
“If the mayors advocate for the provincial planning office, this would be a tremendous step toward a prosperous future for Iraq,” said Bob Kerr, the ePRT team leader.
The provincial planning office would streamline issues and make it possible for one delegate to meet with the provincial governor as a western Anbar representative; establishing a clear channel of communication focused on the priorities and needs of the Iraqi people as presented by the individual mayors from each town.
The regimental commander also stressed the importance of elected leadership producing results from their discussions.
“Freedom is more than a word. It is a way of life. And you cannot be free, no matter whether your government is elected by the people or not, if you do not have access to essential services like clean water and electricity,” said Col. John Love, regimental commander for RCT-8.
The main topic for discussion during the conference was the budgetary issues of each town. Each of the town’s representatives focused on the importance of emergency funds within their budgets. Although funding is allocated through the provincial government, towns must make sure there is money available during drastic situations.
During the working groups, the city planners discussed more involvement in city projects. This included decision making and deciding on who receives the contracts for the town’s projects.
“We need engineers and legal counsel to make it possible to direct the projects forward and execute the planning,” said Ahmad Abdul Mun’im, the mayor of Hit, Iraq.
Organization and project oversight were some of the other topics discussed at this conference. With the new drop in oil prices almost halving last years price-per-barrel, the local towns have had to focus on which projects are needed, holding off on social programs.
“About 70 percent of our project funding has dropped this year,” said Hamid Khaleel Ibrahim, the mayor of Rawah, Iraq.
“We’re now only focused on water, health, schools and roads,” added Husam Rashid Muhsen, the Rawah city engineering supervisor.
Key leaders were able to discuss and come to a realization that their town’s shared similar problems. The Civic Leaders Conference indentified that the road ahead would require detailed planning and coordination amongst the mayors, civil engineers and the provincial planning office, in order to pave the way for a productive, peaceful and sovereign Iraq..
“We have to be honest toward reconstruction and put our people first,” Farhan said. “We will now take the right path to the future of western Anbar.”
For more information on the ongoing mission in Iraq’s Al Anbar province, visit www.iimefpublic.usmc.mil/iimeffwd.