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U.S. soldiers swap fighting for job creation schemes

U.S. soldiers swap fighting for job creation schemes

Dozens of U.S. troops seen in Mosul after June 30 will not be military advisers or trainers but instead work to ensure that millions of American tax dollars are not frittered away.
Combat operations against the al-Qaeda-linked insurgents that turned Mosul into a hotbed of violence are all but finished for the U.S. army. Its focus is now shifting to the task of improving key services for the local population.
Captain Joe Himpelmann has spent much of the first six months of his one-year posting in Mosul employing Iraqis to lift rubbish off the streets, fix sewers and clear ground for new football pitches.
"We have learned and evolved our methods during eight years of persistent conflict and now have a depth of experience in the army in running civil aid projects," said Himpelmann, a veteran of Afghanistan, as well as Iraq.
"It's a key part of our counter-insurgency strategy."
All but a few U.S. soldiers will pull out of cities, towns and villages on Tuesday under the terms of a bilateral security accord signed last year, giving the national army and police sole responsibility for security from July 1.
Himpelmann, from the 3rd Brigade 1st Cavalry Division, commands about 100 troops, but also has 800 Iraqi employees on his books, paid with U.S. government cash allocated as part of the army's "non-lethal efforts to restore a sense of normalcy" in Mosul.
The aim is to target the young and unemployed Iraqi men seen most likely to be manipulated by insurgents into committing violence, and give them jobs.
"We've basically got to offer them a better deal than the enemy," said Captain John Bradley, also from the 3rd Brigade 1st Cavalry, during a visit to a possible new project site.
Bradley insists that such tasks, run in conjunction with the Mosul Baladia - city council - bolster rather than detract from the job he signed up for.
"I'm both," he said, when asked if he feels more like a project manager than a frontline combat leader.
Bradley and his fellow officers are keenly aware though that much aid money has been wasted in Iraq, and have until now patrolled the streets to make sure workers turn up and to confirm that contracted jobs have been done.
"I am into the (U.S.) government for a cool million right now and I need to check that taxpayers' dollars are being spent properly," said Bradley, stressing that lessons have been learned on stopping fraud.


Updated : 2021-05-08 02:41 GMT+08:00