Reconstruction in Iraq Moving Forward at Steady Clip
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 12, 2005 Security and reconstruction go hand in hand and are equally critical to Iraq's future, the commander of the Army Corps of Engineers Gulf Region Division told reporters in Baghdad, Iraq, today.
"You need a secure environment to do reconstruction," said Army Brig. Gen. Thomas Bostick. "But you also need reconstruction to have a secure environment."
Multinational Force Iraq, the U.S. government and the interim Iraqi government are working together to ensure success on both fronts.
While progress continues in training Iraq's security forces, 1,550 construction projects are under way throughout the country -- compared to just 200 projects under way in June. "It's an enormous achievement, and it's the work of many, many people throughout this country," Bostick said.
These reconstruction projects include large, long-term capital projects that address water and sewage treatment facilities, power plants and the oil- distribution infrastructure. They also include smaller community projects that are more visible to the Iraqi people and have an immediate impact on their lives, he said. The focus of these projects is schools, clinics, hospitals, rail stations and police stations, many being rebuilt with funds from Commander's Emergency Response Program funds.
Bostick said both large-scale and smaller reconstruction projects are critical to what he calls "the reconstruction fight." It's a fight in which he said "winning, for us, is delivering on projects each and every day, now and into the future."
Ensuring that delivery "is truly a team effort" that includes not only the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Project and Contracting Office, and the Iraq Reconstruction Management Office, but also the U.S. Agency for International Development and nongovernmental organizations, he said.
Other key players are the U.S. military, which serves an active role in many of the smaller-scale reconstruction efforts and funds many of them directly through commanders' emergency-relief funds, and the Iraqi people themselves, Bostick said.
Bostick credited the Iraqi people with being "the ones on the front line" of the reconstruction, often in the face of violence, threats and intimidation. "It is Iraqis who are out on the ground, working in harm's way often, to make this a better country and a better life for their children and future generations," he said.
He estimated that some 130,000 Iraqis are working on the wide range of projects under way throughout the country. The true number is actually larger, he said, when factoring in the behind-the-scenes workers who manufacture the products used on the construction sites.
Driving their participation is far more than dollars, Bostick said. "It's not about the money at all," he said. "It's about freedom and democracy and because they want to help this country move forward."
One of the biggest focuses of the reconstruction is electricity, a major sticking point among Iraqis. Bostick blamed shortages on "years of neglect" and "a band-aid approach" to maintenance under the Saddam Hussein regime and said the reconstruction effort has already boosted output by about 2,000 megawatts a day.
However, he acknowledged, the typical Iraqi citizen doesn't recognize this increase because much of the new capacity is cut during both scheduled and unscheduled maintenance. Bostick said short-term inconveniences while this maintenance takes place will pay off in the long term, when Iraq has a steady, dependable power supply.
The Iraq reconstruction effort -- from restoring electricity to rebuilding schools to repairing the oil-delivery system -- bodes for a better future for Iraq, he said.
"This is about the future of Iraq," Bostick said. "It's about the men and women of today and the children of tomorrow and making sure that they have the conditions (for) the freedom and the democracy that all of them want."
That future "is bright," he said, "because we are doing the right thing."