A Quick Look Around Western Anbar

We discussed the state of our districts at our recent team meeting.  The good news is that progress across Western Al Anbar has been astonishing, but it is still uneven and each of the sub-districts has its own particular conditions.   Here is a general look.

Al Qaim
The saying around here is that the sun rises in the west, since Al Qaim was the first district to throw off the insurgents.  Al Qaim, which includes the regions of Husaybah, Ramanan, Karbilah and New Ubaydi, was the most advanced economically and politically, but its progress has slowed in recent months.  Our LNO there sees this not so much a problem as a simple case of diminishing returns.  It is like what happens after a forest fire. Progress is quick in the early stages of recovery but naturally slows as the region approaches a mature situation.   Al Qaim both benefits and suffers from the legacy of state investment.  The region has a big phosphate plant and a cement factory as well as a railroad repair center.  None of them are working to full capacity.  The rail center is in the process of being demilled 

The Al Qaim region has some of the richest soil in the Middle East, according to our Ag Advisor.  Beyond that, the river water at this point carries less salt and mineral, so that it takes significantly less water to sustainably produce crops here than farther downstream, where more gallon of water must be used to avoid salinity. The ePRT is working to hold an agricultural conference in September to address some agricultural issues.

Rawah/Anah has a split personality, with Anah much better run politically and better managed in general.   However, they share the environment.  The region is heavily agricultural and agriculture has suffered from the long drought.  This is exacerbated by low water levels on the Euphrates caused not only by the drought but also by water diversions in Syria and Turkey.  The Euphrates will probably never reach the water flow it did a generation ago.  Many of the regions pumps and pipes no longer reach flowing water.  Updating agriculture is a priority here.

The Hadithah Triad, which includes Hadithah, Barwana and Haqlaniyah, is our success story.  When I arrived ten months ago Hadithah was a prime concern.   The RCT doubled down on the region and it became the biggest recipient of our QRF and other programs.  Earlier this year CSP opened and office there and has been very active.  Today it is thriving.  The biggest problem is growth.  We are trying to develop accurate figures, but it is clear that the Triad is experiencing a population boom.  Property values are rising and there is building everywhere you look.  Perhaps this is the bounce effect we say in Al Qaim several months ago, but for now the Triad is our shinning star.  Of course, I should add the caveat that everything is relative.   The region still suffers the paradox of high unemployment and a shortage of skilled labor, for example.

If the Triad is thriving, Hit, which includes Hit, Baghdadi, Kubaysah and Phurat, is its dark twin.  Hit suffers from especially poor and corrupt leadership at the top, which has been a significant impediment to our efforts.  The ePRT avoids all projects directly involving the mayor, which limits our reach.  On the hopeful side, the city council in Hit is basically sound and those in the satellite regions are good.  Beyond that, the rot at the top cannot hold back economic growth, which has been significant.

Our LNO in Hit reports that The attitude in Kubaysah is very positive and the people are content with the completion of several CF and ePRT projects and continuation of some others such as, the water network.  He also said that in meeting in Baghdadi with the district manager Muhanad and the city council chairman Mal-Allah both expressed their appreciation and thankfulness to the ePRT, the Marines, and the IRD for the projects and the development in the city.

Our biggest area geographically is Rutbah, which includes Nukhayb, Akashat, and the border ports of Waleed and Trebil.   The region borders on Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria.  Rutbah is several months behind in its development.  It recently got a new and dynamic mayor and it making progress.  The biggest issue for arid and sparsely populated Rutbah is water.   Rutbah owes its existence to watering holes, but they are not extensive. The modern city grew around a British fort built in the 1920s.  At that time there was a few hundred people.   Now the population is around 30,000 and growing rapidly, which is taxing the local environment.  Rutbah has access to wells, but the pipes are inadequate. There is a big western desert project that is supposed to bring water from the Euphrates.  See above about water in the Euphrates.   Besides sheep herding, the region is important for the POEs, the borders and phosphate production.  We only recently send a permanent LNO to Rutbah and he is closely assessing the situation.  His priorities are to make sure LPG training is done all over the region and to facilitate the establishment of a regional council.