ISKANDARIYAH, IraqûMaj. Gen. Rick Lynch is a West Point graduate with a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from MIT. In Iraq, he’s also a fish farmer. Violence in the region Lynch commands, including the so-called “Triangle of Death” so
That, Lynch says, allows him and his troops to spend less effort chasing insurgents and more on helping the citizens rebuild their economy. “I used to go to patrol bases and plan military operations. Now I walk around and talk to people,” Lynch said on a visit to this city 30 miles south of Baghdad. It was during one of those trips that the commander of the 3rd Infantry Division said he had “a lifechanging experience.”
Local farmers said they needed jobs. “And I thought about how to teach them fish farming.” Whole fish, split open and then grilled upright, is a signature dish in Baghdad restaurants. Demand has been rising as security has improved and more people venture out. But pollution, dams and years of mismanagement of the waters in past decades cut the once abundant stocks. Lynch saw an opportunity.
Fish farming is not unknown in Iraq and creating new farms there is relatively simple. Pools are dug near the existing system of irrigation canals and the farmer fills them with fresh water. Carp or other stillwater species are introduced and, when they’re grown, farmers harvest them easily by draining the pools.
The fish farms are just part of what Lynch and his soldiers call “sustainable security.” Once fighting in an area has been suppressed and Iraqi military and police take over, the U.S. troops look for ways to make it last. “It’s about how do we give these people a means to a job, so they are less likely to resort to the old ways of planting IED’s,” Lynch said, referring to roadside bombs.
The military has given out more than 200 micro-grants worth about $750,000 to small startup businesses in the region. They have also pumped about $140 million into the local economy.
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