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Comptroller Urges House Committee to Support Supplemental Funding Request

By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 16, 2003 – Saying the Defense Department wants to advance stabilization and recovery in Iraq as rapidly and cost effectively as possible, the Pentagon's chief financial officer urged the House Budget Committee today to support President Bush's $87 billion supplemental funding request for military and reconstruction efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Undersecretary of Defense (Comptroller) Dov S. Zakheim addressed the budget impact of operations in the two countries during an appearance before the committee to discuss long-term DoD budget issues.

He called Iraq the central battleground in the global war on terrorism, and said the cost of U.S. efforts there must be weighed against the consequences of failure.

"Failure to defeat terrorism there would hurt the entire civilized world and increase the likelihood of direct attacks on America and its citizens," Zakheim said. He emphasized that "a stable and nonthreatening Iraq is not, and will not be, a U.S.-only endeavor."

Zakheim cited Japan's approval of a $1.5 billion grant for immediate reconstruction needs in Iraq, and said the United Kingdom intends to provide $870 million more. "We expect additional substantial contributions from the upcoming international donor conference" scheduled for Oct. 23-24 in Madrid, he added.

Militarily, he continued, 32 nations have troops in Iraq, and the United States expects to reduce its troop levels "significantly" as security contributions from the international community and the Iraqi people themselves increase.

"We expect to be able to reduce U.S. military personnel in Iraq from 147,000 now to an average of 113,000 active military personnel" in fiscal 2004, he said. But he said DoD has a fall-back plan if enough additional multinational troops turn out not to be forthcoming.

In that case, "we are prepared to call up and deploy four enhanced separate brigades from the U.S. Army National Guard," he said. "These forces would provide a prudent hedge against uncertain international commitments. We intend to ensure that the gains made in Iraq are not lost by failing to follow through on the stability mission."

Zakheim said America's burden in Iraq would ease with accelerated contributions of the Iraqi people to their own security and well-being. "That is a primary focus of the president's supplemental request and a primary focus of coalition leaders on the ground in Iraq," he said. "About 70,000 Iraqis are now engaged in security operations, and another 13,000 are in or awaiting training. These include the police, border enforcement officers, Civil Defense Corps, Facility Protection Service, and the new Iraqi army."

He added the 6,000-member Civil Defense Corps should have 15,000 members by the end of 2004, and that the Facility Protection Service's 20,000 members now guard more than 240 critical sites. Zakheim said the supplemental request also supports the goal of having 27 battalions in the new Iraqi army by Sept. 30, 2004.

The undersecretary noted that the first battalion of 700 Iraqis graduated from training this month. "About $5 billion of the president's request is to accelerate this early progress and to increase the contributions of the Iraqis to their own security," he said. "Since the end of July, Iraqi participation in security efforts has more than doubled."

Continued progress toward making Afghanistan a "peaceful, democratic and prosperous country that can serve as a partner in the region and as a model for other Muslim states" is another goal of the supplemental funding request, Zakheim said.

The United States has provided more than $2 billion in aid to Afghanistan over the past two years, he said, and as of late September had 9,800 troops - about 8,100 active and 1,700 reservists - stationed there along with 8,000 other troops from 39 countries. He said continued efforts in Afghanistan are "a major effort and a top priority" for the United States.

Zakheim cited examples of progress in security, reconstruction and democracy since coalition forces removed the Taliban from power.

"So far, we have trained and partially equipped 10 battalions of the (Afghan National Army), trained 700 Afghan national police, helped (to) implement a national communications system and put in place a national police ID card system," he said.

Reconstruction progress includes the United States grading all of its 389- kilometer portion of the ring road between Kabul and Kandahar and deploying security along road construction sites, he said, with paving complete on about 169 kilometers of the road so far. "We have also built 203 schools and 140 health clinics ... to help the central government provide for its people and counter the influence of extremist influences," he added. Zakheim also cited creation of joint civilian-military provincial reconstruction teams -- led by the United States, United Kingdom and New Zealand - to "help provide basic services to the Afghan people and increase security in outlying areas."

Noting that Afghanistan is a poor country without many of the institutions required for democratic governance, Zakheim said the United States has contributed $58 million to help in that arena. "As the government starts meeting the needs of its people, it helps reduce the influence of the warlords," he said. "We have also begun helping Afghanistan prepare for the Constitutional Loya Jirga (a grand council to approve a new constitution), and voter registration in the run-up to next June's elections."

In closing , Zakheim turned back to Iraq: "The stakes could not be higher. The emergence of an Iraq that protects the rights of its citizens, that represents all of its diverse ethnic and religious groups, that prospers economically for the benefit of all its people - this would be a profoundly important model for the Middle East and for the entire world.

"To help the Iraqi people meet this historic challenge, President Bush has pledged America's commitment to stay the course," he continued. "But America will not shoulder that burden alone, and the cost of failure would be catastrophic. Success will not come cheap, but it is our only viable option, and we will press on until we have completed our mission."

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