Ads 468x60px

Friday, July 11, 2008

Few jobs, lots of trouble in mosul

MOSUL, Iraq (AP) — Five years ago this month, Paul Wolfowitz, then the Pentagon's second-ranking official, dropped in on this northern city to take its temperature. He walked the streets, chatted with locals and came to a quick conclusion: The people here had grown impatient with post-invasion chaos.
"The biggest problem is people need jobs," Wolfowitz told an accompanying reporter, adding, "Some people (Iraqis) think that because we're the United States, we can fix things right away. We can't."
It seems he was right on both counts.
Lack of employment was a problem here in the earliest days of the post-invasion period, before Wolfowitz and the Bush administration were willing to acknowledge that an insurgency was brewing. And it remains a problem today, when the insurgency is still active, though not fighting as effectively in Mosul.
Jobs are still key, as another senior Pentagon official heard Tuesday when he dropped in. Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was told that Ninevah province, of which Mosul is the capital, has an estimated jobless rate of 50 percent to 60 percent and few bright prospects for foreign investment.
"I see it again in Mosul: the inability of the Iraqi government to spend money ... and generate jobs," Mullen said in an Associated Press interview. "And that's got to be done."
Without economic progress and political accommodation among competing sects, "then I'm not sure that security makes that much difference" to the ultimate outcome of the search for lasting stability, he added.
Frederick Kagan, a military historian and an Iraq watcher at the American Enterprise Institute, said in an interview Tuesday in Baghdad that he thinks the economic problem can be exaggerated in some respects. He believes that as security improves in Iraq, economic prospects will improve with time.
"What we've seen generally is that whenever the bombing stops, we start to see the economy pick up, and we're seeing that, even in Mosul," said Kagan, who visited the city on Monday. "There is economic life in the city. It is starting to come back."
It's got a long way to go.
Wolfowitz was here on July 21, 2003, a time of hope amid uncertainty about the prospects for a real peace. He walked through a main street without body armor, a baseball cap on his head. One day later, the U.S. military announced that it had killed Saddam Hussein's two fugitive sons, Odai and Qusai, in their Mosul hide-out — adding to a sense of optimism about the war, though it soon slipped away.
At that point the lead commander in northern Iraq was David Petraeus, then a two-star general. Petraeus has since added two stars and is the soon-to-depart commander of all U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq.
Several times since 2003, Mosul has tilted toward and away from stability, into and out of a desperate fight for power and resources. In late 2004, after Sunni Arab insurgents were driven out of their primary stronghold in Fallujah, they rose up in Mosul and thousands of Iraqi police abandoned their posts.
The Americans then reasserted control in 2005 and by December, President Bush was declaring in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations that "freedom is taking hold in Mosul," with Iraqis back in charge.
The troubles were not over, however. Through 2006, there was a stalemate between the Sunni Arab population in western Mosul, which largely tolerated or supported al-Qaida in Iraq and other Sunni insurgent groups, and the mostly Kurdish army forces on the east side of the city, which is divided by the Tigris River.
By mid-2007, the senior American commander in northern Iraq, Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mixon, was recommending that Ninevah province be returned to Iraqi government control. By autumn, however, the picture was turning darker once again. It became clear to Mixon's successor, Maj. Gen. Mark Hertling, that al-Qaida and other insurgents had gained a stronger grip in western Mosul and had to be confronted.
This year the Iraqis have led the way in clearing western Mosul of hostile forces, and now the city seems to be back on track: violence has fallen sharply, Iraqi forces are growing and the expectation of provincial elections across Iraq is holding out hope for new political accommodations here.
And, still, there is the jobs problem.
Mike Hankey, head of a multi-agency U.S. team that is working on nonmilitary aspects of stabilizing Ninevah province, said the roots of economic malaise were set during Saddam's rule, when the central government subsidized the agriculture industry by providing farmers with fuel, fertilizer and seed.
"The current government of Iraq doesn't do that anymore, and that is a big shock to farmers here," Hankey said in an interview Tuesday. On a hopeful note, he said many of the province's 75,000 farm families have begun banding together to form cooperatives to pool resources and address common problems. That, in turn, is creating bonds between tribes that once were on unfriendly terms, he said.
Source: The Associated Press


Post a Comment

Your comment make this thing more clear to me, say what you want to say but don't stay calm..