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Ground Self-Defense Force troops are lagging behind in providing relief and reconstruction assistance in southern Iraq, an influential local weekly said in an editorial Saturday.

The criticism marks a turnaround from the weekly’s earlier positive coverage of the GSDF’s operations, apparently reflecting a gradual shift among the public from optimism to impatience.

The editorial comes with Japan in the process of completing its dispatch of 550 ground troops to Samawah. The third and final group of the core GSDF unit, consisting of about 120 troops, is now in Kuwait and is expected to travel overland soon to Iraq.

The editorial noted that many people are angry at officials of Al-Muthanna Province, of which Samawah is the capital, over their promises that the GSDF deployment would resolve all problems, especially unemployment, like a “magic wand.”

Local expectations have been high that Japan, through the GSDF, would be creating jobs in the city, the majority of whose residents are unemployed.

The weekly blamed local officials for telling residents that the arrival of the GSDF would spell an end to such problems, including power shortages, in an effort to dodge public criticism.

It expressed strong concern that if local residents’ hopes are not met immediately, the GSDF’s aid operations “could possibly become even more difficult.”

Pep talk for medics

TOKOROZAWA, Saitama Pref. (Kyodo) Defense Agency chief Shigeru Ishiba emphasized the significance of medical assistance for Iraq in an address Saturday to new graduates of the National Defense Medical College.

Nine graduates of the school run by the Defense Agency to train medics for the Self-Defense Forces are part of a 550-member contingent being deployed to Iraq for humanitarian and reconstruction assistance, Ishiba said.

“No entity but the SDF can operate for peace and Japan’s national interest in Iraq, where terrorists remain and dangers still exist,” he said.

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