BAGHDAD, Feb. 7 (UPI) -- A top U.S. military commander said progress from local governing councils along with economic reconstruction and security gains extends beyond central Iraq.
Army Lt. Col. Mark Sullivan, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division's 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery Regiment, told military analysts in a recent briefing that the efforts to unify council and tribal leaders with police and government representatives resulted in "significant gains at the local level in governance."
Sullivan highlighted a local unification strategy echoing a broader provincial program under the U.S. State Department's Provincial Reconstruction Teams aimed at creating joint solutions to common problems, the American Forces Press Service reported.
"We really believe that these are Iraqi problems that require Iraqi solutions," Sullivan said.
He noted the areas surrounding Baghdad remain dangerous but said the unified voice of the local governments and the increased resolve of local citizens contribute to the creation of a secure Iraq from the ground up.
"The local population has embraced our presence, and we believe the extremists have been severely disrupted as a result," Sullivan said.
Sullivan also highlighted the reconstruction of a local brick factory in the Iraqi city of Narhwan that employs roughly 2,500 people. He said negotiations between local leaders and the central government of Iraq may lead to the creation of an additional 4,500 jobs in the next six months.
Nearly $1.5 million in U.S.-backed funds and roughly $3.0 million from the Iraqi government provide development aid to reconstruction projects targeting water, sewer and school programs in Narhwan, Sullivan said.