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Signs of Progress Seen in Anbar Reconstruction

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 7, 2007 – Iraq’s infrastructure is slowly improving despite years of neglect under Saddam Hussein’s Baath party and the current “costly insurgency,” a military commander said.

“The type of work we have undertaken is hard work. It takes time and constant attention,” Army Col. Deborah Lewis, commander of the Gulf Regional Central District, told Iraqi reporters during a May 5 briefing on reconstruction in Anbar province.

The Army Corps of Engineer’s Gulf Region Division is spearheading public works projects to improve Iraq’s water, oil and electricity infrastructure. The division has completed 2,279 projects to construct or renovate security and justice buildings, health and education centers, transportation arteries and communications facilities in Iraq. According to the division’s Web site, 325 such programs are ongoing.

Partnering with Iraqi ministries, provincial and local leaders, coalition forces and U.S. government agencies, including the U.S. Agency for International Development, the division continues to make progress in Anbar province.

“Our common goal for these many partners is to provide the people of Iraq access to these basic essential services,” Lewis said. “We do this by ensuring quality work, and we work directly with each of these partners to select and find and then construct these needed projects for the Iraqi people.

“The road to improvement is always under construction, (and) nothing great is ever done without a whole lot of help,” she added.

Lewis said the Gulf Region Division has hosted Iraqi contractor workshops in Ramadi and Fallujah to explain to local builders the fundamentals of competing successfully for labor-intensive public works projects.

“We’ve employed an average of 22,000 Iraqi citizens per week throughout Iraq,” she said. “These projects not only have direct benefits by the services they can provide to the people, they also help the local economy because employment is … an indirect benefit for the economy.”

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