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Opinion

Don't believe everything you hear about Iraq. There's progress.

A US lieutenant colonel in Iraq explains why progress in Iraq is happening on a grassroots level. Democracy and stability may still have a long way to go, but Iraqi citizens and security forces are taking back their communities, rooting our terrorists, and making peace.

By Jim Isenhower / December 17, 2010



Diyala Province, Iraq

It has been nearly 120 days since the end of combat operations in Iraq. Seven years and eight months after the invasion, Sept. 1 marked the official end of Operation Iraqi Freedom and the beginning of Operation New Dawn – the US military’s new mission in Iraq. But amid recent reports of escalating sectarian violence, challenges facing Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) , and a newly-settled government still shifting its distribution of power, peace and stability may seem as elusive in Iraq as ever.

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What we don’t always hear about, however, is the real, community-based progress evolving in Iraq. And I’ve seen this improvement firsthand.

IN PICTURES: Iraq combat mission over

After one hundred days of Operation New Dawn, I and the other members of 2nd Squadron, 14th Cavalry thought it important to share what we’ve seen in Iraq – what the view looks like after the transition from combat operations to stability operations. Admittedly, our perspective is confined to northern Diyala Province. But within this complex region that comprises elements of nearly every challenge facing Iraq, we continue to witness daily achievements – most without US assistance – by local Iraqi governments, Iraqi Security Forces, and Iraqi citizens.

Effective local governments

Over the past eight years, US Department of State experts have necessarily focused their advising and training on the national and provincial level governments. As these echelons became more proficient, local governments gradually received more attention and subsequently emerged as functioning entities. What we’ve witnessed lately is wholly impressive. Local city councils that had all but dissolved from inaction or inattention are now meeting weekly, identifying the most critical projects for their citizens, prioritizing those projects, and publicly soliciting and awarding bids in a clear display of transparency and effective governance.

WikiLeaks and the war in Iraq

What’s more, many a mayor now travels to the provincial seat as the voice of his constituents, lobbying for more attention, more money, or more critical infrastructure. The improvements in local governing efficacy have provided the higher levels of government with vital visibility on the most critical needs of its citizens.

Progress of Iraqi Security Forces

Few soldiers or police officers are faced with a more daunting challenge than the Iraqi Security Forces. And though not perfect, the progress they’ve displayed and the capabilities they continue to gain are positively encouraging. Our unit works within the disputed territories – contested lands that both Arabs and Kurds claim. Two years ago their respective forces lined up facing each other in a tense stand-off. Today, both forces conduct combined security operations in this region, working together to weed out remnants of the enemy.

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