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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

09 March 2007

"Economic Surge" Accompanies Troop Boost in Iraq, U.S. Envoy Says

Reconstruction, development officials in Baghdad brief Pentagon reporters

Washington -- An “economic surge” is accompanying the ongoing U.S. troop surge in Iraq, and the country could see results from this increased activity within a few months, a senior U.S. diplomat said March 9 in Baghdad.

“My focus is on now, and on what's going to happen in this period of surge, not only military surge, but also economic surge over the next four to six months,” Ambassador Timothy Carney, coordinator for economic transition in Iraq, told Pentagon reporters in a two-way teleconference.

Results from this increased economic activity should become apparent “within a relatively short time – I’m talking about a few months,” Carney said.

Security is Iraq’s most urgent problem, but economic development and increased job opportunities also will play a major role in creating a stable, well-governed country, Carney said. “A trend that we’d like to see [is] the creation of jobs, at least in the short term,” he said. “As we all know, until there is real security, the Iraqi economy is not going to restart on a major, large scale. But in the interim, a significant number of jobs might be created.” (See related article.)

President Bush announced in January that he was sending more than 21,500 additional troops to Iraq, primarily to support Iraqi troops in a security crackdown throughout Baghdad. An important element of the plan is an increased economic and development effort, with a goal of helping stability take hold amid the stepped-up troop presence.

Joseph Gregoire, who leads the Baghdad provincial reconstruction team (PRT), also briefed reporters. The PRTs are “designed to kick-start developmental processes,” Gregoire said.

The Baghdad PRT includes approximately 90 people – one-third U.S. military personnel, one-third other U.S. government employees and one-third Iraqis – who are “working day in and day out” to coordinate economic and development assistance at the local and regional level. Team members meet daily with Iraqi officials outside Baghdad’s International Zone and talk with the Provincial Council and Baghdad City Hall.

Gregoire said the reconstruction team is focused on five thematic areas: rule of law, infrastructure for essential services, economic development, governance and public diplomacy. Rule-of-law issues include monitoring the treatment of Iraqis by local security forces.

“We will, more often than not, conduct three or four visits to police stations, detention centers and the prisons in any give week,” Gregoire said, “so that our colleagues can assess the conditions within these institutions, all with the view to building up capacity to ensure the proper rule of law.”

The president’s surge plan for Iraq includes doubling the number of reconstruction teams, from 10 to 20. Each reconstruction team will be located with a military brigade combat team, and leaders of the new teams already have been recruited, Gregoire said. (See related article.)

“Ultimately, the PRT is a short-term solution to a long-term problem,” Gregoire said. “The PRTs will go out of business. And when they do go out of business, most likely it will be because they’ve been successful.” Once security is established, he said, the PRTs’ long-term mission will be handed over to more traditional groups, such as the U.S. Agency for International Development.

(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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