Colonel finds signed deal is key to construction
FORWARD OPERATING BASE Q-WEST, Iraq — In his year in Iraq, U.S. Army Col. Stephen Twitty has learned that no matter how much government officials nod in agreement, projects do not move forward without dried ink.
It is not enough to get “just verbal approval,” said the commander of the 1st Cavalry Division’s 4th Brigade. “Nothing happens in Iraq if it’s not written on paper.”
Twitty, leader of U.S. forces in Ninevah province, kept this in mind as he met with municipal leaders who have sought to break ground on a new hospital since the project was given the go-ahead in 2004.
Twitty is eager to see the project started and planned to lend a push and nudge where he could along the bureaucratic morass, he said.
“Every process where we have had to provide something for the people from the government has been slow,” he said.
The Ministry of Health in Baghdad has been particularly notorious for delays and unresponsiveness. “It is a cumbersome process but it will arrive,” Twitty said.
The war in Iraq is far from just bombs and bullets, he said. The whole country is serving an apprenticeship in democracy, in effect, learning on the job, military officials across the country have said.
Processes and plans handled with routine efficiency by government ministries in the United States are still being practiced and learned in Iraq, Twitty said.
But there is no other way, he said.
“Iraq is a sovereign country,” Twitty said. “Everything that happens has to be approved through the Iraq government.”
Saleh Hassan Ali, the mayor of Qayyarah, was part of the three-man delegation for the town of roughly 22,000 that met Tuesday with Twitty and Lt. Col. Robert McLaughlin, commander of the 5th Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment based at FOB Q-West, to discuss the lingering plans for the 100-bed hospital. Qayyarah is about 20 minutes east of the base by road and roughly 190 miles north of Baghdad.
There was previously some confusion about whether the hospital would house 100 patients or have 400 beds as part of a nationwide proposal to erect larger teaching hospitals throughout every province.
It has been recently clarified that the more ambitious plans would only be pursued in provincial seats, which in Ninevah is the city of Mosul, not Qayyarah.
The mayor expressed his concerns to Twitty and the rest of the gathered U.S. military officers. Twitty promised to raise the questions with the provincial governor.
Saleh said he suspected that provincial leaders, while verbally giving their blessing to the project to U.S. military officials, have been silent with him as they waited for the paperwork to clear the Ministry of Health.
With roughly three months left on his tour, Twitty is not only spurring on the slow-moving Iraqi bureaucracy but also racing the clock.
“I have 90 days,” he said, “and I’m determined to see shovels break the ground (on this project).”