AL SHA’ AB (Jan. 5, 2009) — Just days after the International Zone was returned to the Government of Iraq, Coalition forces returned Forward Operating Base Callahan to Iraqi jurisdiction, Jan. 3. FOB Callahan was the former Sha’ab Market and a strategic spot in Adhamiyah, which was taken over in 2007 as part of the surge to monitor routes and more fully secure the area.With the new security agreement and increased security in the area, Coalition forces seized the opportunity to return the building back to the Iraqi Ministry of Trade. “This building has been a Coalition camp since March of 2007; it was taken over during the surge, and now we’ve handed over this central shop market back to Iraqi control because of the increase of security in Adhamiyah area,” said Lt. Col. Michael Pappal, commander of the 1st Combined Arms Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Multi-National Division – Baghdad.
The Ministry of Trade plans to renovate the building and again use it as a market. The MoT will remove the concrete barriers surrounding it.“There are two big effects by reopening this building,” said Capt. Kevin Kahre, commander of Company D, 1-68 AR, 3rd BCT, 4th Inf. Div. “The first impact will be that traffic will be alleviated considerably by the reopening of two major roads in the area, which will afford people the opportunity to move around more freely as we take down barriers. Larger vehicles will be able to transport anything from goods to fuel more easily as well. Second, in the upcoming months, as the MoT fixes and reopens the building, it will once again be a source of income for the area.
“This building is so prominent and has been a big reminder of a U.S. presence,” Kahre said. “By leaving this building, it shows those who live here that Iraq is making progress. The move promotes a sense of normalcy, with roads and commerce restored, and will help the people see they are moving forward and American troops are complying with the security agreement.”
Kahre went on to explain how rewarding it has been for him and Soldiers who have deployed multiple times to see things come “full circle” and how good it was to see Iraqis get that part of their city back.
There are eight other markets like the one in Sha’ab, and two remain under Coalition control. “We have nine markets like this throughout Baghdad, and we’ve started the renovation plans for them. There are only two more of nine to be handed back over to us,” said Mahdi Hasaan Shihab, a Ministry of Trade employee. “It’s a happy time for us because it’s ours, and we want to utilize the Ministry of Trade to serve the people of this area and help the economy.”