First the White House outlined a strategy of building up Iraq's
security forces as the ticket home for US troops. Now the US is
promoting a parallel vision that calls for progressively turning
over control of US-funded development projects, worth about $21
billion, to Iraqis.
"As Iraqis develop their security capabilities, we will reduce
our military presence," said Daniel Speckhard, director of the Iraq
Reconstruction Management Office at a media briefing here Thursday.
"We will see that same transition in our reconstruction program ...
from one heavily dominated by the United States to one increasingly
under Iraqi control."
Coming the day after President Bush's speech in New York on Iraq
reconstruction, the briefing underscores the effort by the
administration to highlight the "unheralded" economic and social
progress. This appears to be a double-headed objective: trumpet the
progress, but also the transition from American to Iraqi control.
Examples abound: The US Army Corps of Engineers is turning
increasingly to Iraqi engineers and contractors to design and
complete sewer and water projects. The US Agency for International
Development (USAID) is halfway through training 100,000 Iraqi
teachers in new methods, while also spearheading development of
private social organizations.
But not all elements of Iraq's reconstruction program fit into
Billions of dollars have been lost to corruption or wasted,
according to US government reports. Many Iraqi contractors and
workers face death threats and other difficulties for associating
with US projects. The number of Iraqi contractors killed now totals
several hundred. At the same time, at least one-fifth of US
reconstruction funds have been spent on security for projects and
In addition, the initial American message of delivering billions
of dollars to build a modern country has fed high expectations and
led to Iraqi frustration.
To counter that, US officials offer statistics with all arrows
pointing up for services and improvements delivered. More than 2,000
infrastructure projects have been completed, with more than 1,000
under way, according to Brig. Gen Bill McCoy, the US military's
reconstruction head in Baghdad. While 5 million Iraqis have potable
water before the war, 6 million do today. More than 3 million short-
term jobs have been created by US funds, in a country with half of
its 25 million people 15 years old or younger. …