Cablegate: Dart Assessment of Al Kut

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A


1. DART Field Team South visited Al Kut from 20 to 22 May
and participated in three assistance coordination meetings
that regularly take place in the city. The meetings
provided an overview of the issues and needs currently being
addressed in Wasit Governorate by Coalition forces, local
Iraqi leadership, and NGOs. The visit also highlighted a
critical issue for continued reconstruction efforts at the
Governorate level in Iraq. End Summary.


2. The Coalition Civil Affairs Commander described
restoration of electrical power in Wasit Governorate as the
most pressing problem. The goal is to meet an estimated
Governorate need of 172 megawatts (MW). To date, the
Governorate only receives 75 MW. Electricity is being
acquired through coordination with other regional producers
(e.g., 50 MW from An Nasiriyah, 15 to 20 MW from Baghdad,
etc.). There have been difficulties, however, with
facilities in Baghdad not providing the promised amount of
power and unscheduled shut downs affecting other utilities.
Work continues on restoring 132 regional power lines and
repairing damaged towers.


3. The Coalition Civil Affairs Commander said the purchase
of locally produced wheat is the region's second largest
problem. Under the previous regime, the government
purchased locally grown wheat that was included in food
rations distributed to the public. At the town council
meeting, the Commander expressed the need for the Office of
Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA) to
consider the intricacies of wheat procurement and the
immediacy of the problem. (Comment: The impact of the
wheat purchase decision will be felt immediately in the
south, where the DART observed farmers harvesting throughout
the region. End Comment.)

4. Last year's crop remains stored in silos but is unusable
due to mold. The Commander said the old stock needs to be
destroyed and policy and procedures established for purchase
of the new crop. There was also considerable discussion in
the town council meeting about the need to stop the
slaughter of animals inside the market, to re-open the
slaughterhouses outside the city limits, and to put meat
inspectors back to work. Another priority will be to
procure fertilizer for the yellow corn crop but the Basrah
fertilizer plant is reportedly not operating due to
insecurity and damage.


5. The Coalition obtained Defense Department funding to
help the town council purchase telephones for key agencies,
including the traffic police and court offices. Four
hundred and fifty telephone lines have been restored and
work continues on the installation of a new central
switchboard. Phones are being installed in all the schools
to ensure emergency response capacity. Several billion
Iraqi dinars are reported to be in the telecommunications
accounts. It appears the money is in the Governate Ministry
of Telecommunications accounts because the Coalition and
local treasury personnel are assessing the actual amounts.

6. The Coalition, using money from seized government bank
accounts, has begun the payment of April salaries to
thousands of civil servants. The Civil Affairs team is
overseeing the inspection of bank vaults to determine the
available cash in the city.


7. Al Kut's fire department responded to its first fire
since the war ended, and the overall assessment was that the
response was a success. The designated Coalition Civil
Affairs officer (who is also a volunteer fireman in his
hometown in the United States) noted the department is
hampered by a lack of radio communications equipment and
protective gear. The officer said he is pursuing an idea
to have fire departments in the United States adopt a
Governorate's fire department and to provide it with
financial and technical support. But he said one looming
problem is the cost of transporting donated equipment and


8. Baghdad refineries, the usual source for all fuel in the
Governorate, continue to operate at less than 50 percent
capacity. Coordination of fuel distribution remains a major
problem. Propane trucks were sent to Basrah to acquire
propane gas and were filled but were diverted to Baghdad.
Meanwhile, the Coalition and local oil industry
representatives continue to inspect existing gas lines. Key
pipelines from An Nasiriyah, for diesel, gas and, propane,
have been damaged and repairs may take more than a month to
complete. Long lines of drivers waiting at gas stations
have largely disappeared, however, and one reason for the
change is the sale of gasoline on the black market.
Apparently, some vendors have tapped into a gas line that
was full, but abandoned during the Iran-Iraq war. The fuel
is over 10 years old and of very poor quality.


9. The Director of Al Kut's Health Department noted receipt
of USD 10,000's worth of medicines and supplies from the
International Medical Corps (IMC) that are being distributed
free of charge in the area's hospitals. The scarcity of
chronic care drugs, for the treatment of cancer and other
diseases, however, remains a problem, and some people are
resorting to the purchase of medicines on the black market.
The Director praised the DART for the recent signing of an
agreement with IMC for the rehabilitation of the
Governorate's Public Health Office.

10. He said there is a continuing problem with the limited
supply of oxygen and raised the possibility of making
repairs to the local oxygen bottling plant to produce enough
containers to supply the area's hospitals' needs. (Note:
The DART, the Health Director, Civil Affairs Medical Liaison
officers, and IMC later met with the plant director and a
plan was put in place to find the necessary spare parts for
his equipment to enable his facility to meet the hospitals'
needs. It was estimated that the hospitals need an average
of 140 bottles of oxygen a day. End Note.)


11. A contribution of USD 150,000 (source unknown) was
distributed to local headmasters for the purchase of school
supplies. An election is also underway to determine the
university leadership. There were lengthy discussions in
the city council meeting about final exams, and some
students have protested the cancellation of the school year.
The Coalition Civil Affairs Group Commander had received a
request from a group of 12th graders asking for a delay in
the final testing, coupled with an extended period of
assistance from teachers for study and test preparation.
The Commander supported this approach, calling on the school
administrators to use local television to advertise the
schedule for the exams' preparation.

12. The Director of Education was confronted by one of the
Civil Affairs staff over reports that children from
internally displaced persons (IDPs) were not being allowed
to attend school. The Director said many IDP families did
not have the proper documentation. The Coalition Civil
Affairs Group Commander intervened, saying that paperwork
should not be an impediment to children attending school.
The Commander also noted that many children are still not
attending school. He stressed that the city officials have
a personal responsibility to ensure that all children attend
school. The Commander later met with the teachers and
encouraged them to honor their commitment to educate the
youths. (Back payments of teacher salaries were completed by
the end of May). At the town council meeting, special
thanks were given to Mercy Corps for helping to get rural
schools operating again by providing USD 12,000 for the
rural school bus operations.


13. The designated Civil Affairs Officer for the social
services sector is encountering severe needs. There are
4,800 families on the social welfare register, including the
physically disabled, mentally handicapped, deaf, orphans,
and indigents, who previously received monthly payments (ID
15K to 22K per month) and other services (including propane
cooking gas), who are presently not receiving any assistance
and are in dire need. Children from the orphanage are now
living, more or less unassisted, in the offices of the
Ministry of Social Services.

14. The DART met with the designated Civil Affairs officer
and Ministry representatives and outlined a plan of action.
The Civil Affairs officer will work with the representatives
to draft a budget of immediate program
needs. After the meeting, the DART asked Mercy Corps
International (MCI) to meet with the officer and Ministry
representatives to see whether assistance might be provided
within the context of MCI's current cooperative agreement
with the DART.


15. During the Town Council and Sector meetings, municipal
department heads were repeatedly encouraged to complete
their budgets. A Civil Affairs officer is overseeing the
process of assembling the departmental budgets. Employees
of the treasury and accounting departments had taken home
some of the government's computers to protect the data
during the war and records of payments, funds and budgets
are being reassembled as these computers are being brought
back to the government offices. The Civil Affairs officer
is now establishing a new database to reconcile the various
accounting systems.

16. This same officer is overseeing the inventory of all
public funds in the various agencies and banks. The Health
Department and other public offices that receive small
payments from the public were asked to turn in surplus 250
Iraqi dinar notes for 10,000 notes to help free up the
smaller denominations and to try to reverse the devaluation
of the 10,000 Iraqi dinar notes.


17. The town council praised the city's sanitation workers
for their work. Garbage trucks and other vehicles have
been collected from several ministries and are being used,
in multiple shifts, to start carting away garbage from the
city. (Note. Al Kut appeared to be one of the cleaner
cities in the south, with avenues and neighborhoods largely
devoid of trash. Trashcans were also seen in various areas
around the city. End Note.) The town council also praised
the DART and MCI for planned repairs to the city's water
treatment plant, which is in need of spare parts and


18. An important element in rehabilitating governorate
services in Wasit has been the leadership of the local
Coalition Civil Affairs Group Commander. In the town
council and sectoral meetings, he regularly exhorted
departmental heads to get out of their offices and talk to
people to find out what they think of the government's
services. He has taken several early morning walks around
the city to observe how offices are operating and to ask
people what kind of job the government is doing. He
provided ready praise for successes by Iraqi department
directors and their staffs, and encouraged creative thinking
where problems were encountered.

19. The Commander's style of management appears to be
entirely new to most, if not all, of the Iraqis attending
the town council. Some appeared mystified; others were
confused. The enthusiasm of many others, however, was
clear. The Coalition Civil Affairs Group was ending its
period of responsibility in Al Kut in late May. Another
Civil Affairs team is phasing in as the current team
departs. The new Civil Affairs team will have large shoes
to fill and will need to show, through a steady turnover of
management responsibility to the local Iraqi government,
that the Coalition is committed to allowing Iraqis to govern
themselves in a newly free and transparent system.


© Scoop Media

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