On the day a bomb exploded as his motorcade passed by, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq was touring an American military base to check on the Army’s role of supporting civilian reconstruction projects.
Ambassador Christopher R. Hill visited Contingency Operating Base Adder on Sunday for a briefing with Lt. Col. Michael Eastman, commander of Task Force Pathfinder, which provides aid to civilian projects in Dhi Qar, Maysan and Muthanna provinces.
“What we’re seeing is a crucial year, and it’s good to see the military working with the PRTs,” the ambassador told reporters, referring to provincial reconstruction teams.
Mr. Hill acknowledged the complexity of the military’s mission.
“Not only are you working with the State Department, there are about 10 other civilian agencies working out there,” he said. “It’s like herding cats.”
Mr. Hill added that he expects to see a “surge” in appropriations for the Commander’s Emergency Response Program Funds, which the military uses to fulfill Iraqi government requests for water, electrical or agricultural projects and other emergency needs.
Noting that the U.S. military has turned over control of the country’s cities to Iraqi forces, Mr. Hill added, “There’s a cycle. We’ve been at this for almost seven years, and people are ready to see an end [to violence].”
He told the soldiers at the camp, “I appreciate what you are doing. You’re a real credit to those who want to see a secure, economically stable Iraq.”
Mr. Hill’s motorcade was attacked as he was leaving Nasiriyah, the capital of Dhi Qar province. No one was injured in the explosion.
OUR MAN IN MANAGUA
The U.S. ambassador in Nicaragua has added his voice to the row over the constitutional crisis in neighboring Honduras.
Ambassador Robert J. Callahan, answering a reporter’s question in the capital, Managua, denied that the United States had any role in the June 28 ouster of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya.
Mr. Callahan was responding to charges Sunday by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who accused Washington of supporting the military’s arrest and expulsion of Mr. Zelaya.
“We have supported the efforts from the Organization of American States and from Costa Rican President Oscar Arias to find a constitutional, peaceful and quick solution to this problem,” Mr. Callahan said.
The OAS has demanded Mr. Zelaya’s reinstatement, and Mr. Arias is trying to find a diplomatic compromise with the interim civilian government in Honduras.
Mr. Chavez, in his weekly television and radio program, called on the United States to remove its troops from a military base in Honduras.
“If the United States really does not back the coup, it should withdraw its troops from the Palmerola military base,” he said.
The Palmerola site is a joint U.S.-Honduran air base near Comayagua, about 50 miles northwest of the capital, Tegucigalpa, that opened in 1918. The United States uses Palmerola as a base of operations for the war on drugs in Central America and for humanitarian aid missions.
It houses the Honduran Air Force Academy and the U.S. Joint Task Force Bravo, which includes a military hospital and the UH-60 Black Hawk and CH-47 Chinook helicopters of the 1st Battalion, 228th Aviation Regiment.
The U.S. Embassy in Honduras has also called for a diplomatic solution to the crisis.
“The embassy encourages the pursuit of this regional dialogue to seek a return of the legitimate Honduran government and a restoration of the constitutional and democratic order,” it said.
Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison @washingtontimes.com.