My ePRT is on the edge of the world. I realized this as we flew low to Baghdad in the Blackwater helicopter on the way to Baghdad. Marine Air flies higher and straighter, so I don’t see as much, but there is not much to see anyway on my usual Western Anbar travels, just shades of dusty brown. As we flew toward Bagdad, I saw farm lands that were wider than a football field’s distance from the river. Some of the land looked very green and rich. How different would my impression of Iraq have been if I had been somewhere else but Western Anbar?
I went to Baghdad for the team leader conference. The thirty-one PRTs in Iraq represent vastly different human and natural terrains. Each of us sees part of the situation. It is good to try to bring us together to discuss the bigger picture.
Below is our partner helicopter.
Iraq has improved a lot since I arrive in September of last year. Our meeting reflected this changed situation. Back then it was sometimes hard to see a possible solution. Today I feel reasonably sure that we will succeed in helping this country become more democratic, stable and non-threatening.
It gets lots less green near Al Asad …
Our challenge now is how to help the Iraqis usefully spend their own resources on development projects. We were always supposed to be working ourselves out of a job. The preferred end state is a normal relationship between the U.S. and Iraq and we are well on the way.
… and a lot more green as you get farther from AA.
During the conference I got a couple different perspective about Iraq. For example, Iraq had an excellent system of public health until the 1970s. It declined in the 1980s and got worse and worse as trained professionals left the country and facilities were no maintained. The promising news in this is that we are helping restore, not create a system. This is true of many aspects of this place. As one of the presenters pointed out, Iraq is not a poor country; it is a broken country that can and is being mended. The other different perspective I got came from the simply flying over the country and talking to my colleagues. There is more to Iraq than Western Anbar and there is a lot of potential.
Above – animals grazing, palms growing along fields of grain. My impression of Iraq will always be Western Al Anbar, but I have to remember that is not the whole country.