Iraq: Coalition Provisional Authority Head Notes Progress, Future Plans
By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jul. 24, 2003 The head of reconstruction efforts in Iraq said progress continues to be made in the country and the deaths of Hussein brothers Uday and Qusay is a "statement and a restatement of the partnership that has emerged between the Iraqi people and the coalition."
Ambassador L. Paul Bremer, administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority, told members of the National Press Club July 23 that the previous day's successful mission can be attributed to an Iraqi citizen stepping forward.
"This is consistent with the trend we started noticing several weeks ago of Iraqis coming forward to our police or to their police or to our tactical units and giving us information about Baathists and other evildoers," he said. "Iraqis all across the country are taking their future into their own hands; and this, too, is worthy of celebration."
Bremer focused on successes the coalition has had in rebuilding Iraq and restoring the government there.
Highlighting those accomplishments, Bremer said that over the past month students across Iraq have been taking their final exams, with all of the country's universities and more than 90 percent of Iraq's public schools now reopened.
He also noted that Iraq's hospitals are open and that 95 percent of the country's health clinics are providing services to Iraqi citizens.
Government at all levels is being reestablished as well.
Ten days ago, Iraq's Governing Council was formed, launching the country on a path to democracy. This followed the formation of the Baghdad City Council, which Bremer said he was "pleased to participate in." All major Iraqi cities -- including Baghdad -- now have city councils, and more than 85 percent of the towns in Iraq now have town councils.
"From north to south in Iraq, democracy is on the march," he said.
But despite the successes, the Coalition Provisional Authority still faces three challenges in Iraq, Bremer said: securing the country, setting the economy on a path to prosperity, and building the foundations of a sovereign democratic government.
"And in all three areas -- security, the economy and governance -- we have a plan," he said. "It is a plan with clear benchmarks for the next 60 and 120 days. It is a plan that will guide our work and our mission in Iraq."
Bremer said that he discussed this plan July 22 with the president, the National Security Council and Congress.
He said the "most immediate" priority of the three will be to provide security for coalition forces in Iraq, an area in which he said there has been considerable progress.
"When I first arrived in Baghdad in early May, it was a city on fire, literally," he said. "There was no traffic in the streets except for military vehicles of the coalition. There were no shops open. I slept at night, in those days, with earplugs in my ears because otherwise I was kept awake by the gunfire that went on constantly every night. Looting was a real problem and ongoing. That has all changed."
Bremer told the NPC members that today the streets in Baghdad, Basra, Mosul, Tikrit, Kirkuk, and other cities in Iraq are bustling with business, traffic and commerce.
"From the vegetable markets to the satellite-dish shops, stores are open and merchants are no longer in fear of widespread looting," he added. "The north of Iraq is peaceful. ... This is not a country in chaos, as it is sometimes portrayed," he said,
He also noted that today U.S. and coalition forces face "no strategic threat" in Iraq.
"The attacks against our brave uniformed men and women are concentrated in a small geographic triangle north and west of Baghdad. ... In this area we never fought and defeated the two Republican Guard divisions that were there; they simply faded away," he said.
"And it's no coincidence this area of greatest activity against our forces was the traditional center of political support for Saddam. It's also where he put many elements of the military industrial complex with their Baathist civil servants," he added.
Eighty-one percent of the attacks since June 1 have been in the small area called the Sunni triangle, where, Bremer said, "we face a stubborn resistance made up of former regime loyalists, criminals and some non-Iraqi terrorists.
He said operations by U.S. military forces currently underway in this triangle are making headway in reducing the threat of attack.
"I'm confident we will impose our will here as we have elsewhere in Iraq," he said, adding that additional steps will be taken over the next 60 days to improve security.
Meanwhile, Bremer said, for the Iraqi economy to recover it will mean stabilizing the current economic situation. He said the Coalition Provisional Authority will continue paying public-sector salaries and launch a range of construction and infrastructure projects to create jobs.
"The payment of salaries helped avoid the humanitarian and refugee crisis that many had predicted, and construction and infrastructure proposals will be important in supporting the economy in the coming months," he noted.
The Coalition Provisional Authority is injecting nearly $200 million a month into the economy through salaries, pensions and emergency payments, but "with our development projects, we will also provide thousands, tens of thousands of jobs in the next 60 days ahead," he added.
Bremer also said that the successful mission against Saddam Hussein's sons, "like so many of our successes during this reconstruction, is yet another sterling example of American armed forces at their finest.
"They are on the front lines of securing freedom for the Iraqi people and ensuring that Iraq no longer poses a threat to the world or to America," he added.
"I have visited virtually all of the American units in the entire country of Iraq, and I want to tell you I am a first-hand witness to the professionalism, dedication and courage that these young men and women are showing every day in Iraq," Bremer said. "And let me be clear, they are truly heroes and we owe them an enormous debt of gratitude."