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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

13 July 2007

Iraq Provincial Reconstruction Teams Helping Rebuild Nation

Bush cites joint civilian-military teams that help Iraqis to self-sufficiency

Washington -- Military operations might dominate the headlines in Iraq, but a second, quiet surge of U.S.-led provincial reconstruction teams (PRTs) is helping local communities restore basic services, bridge the sectarian divide and achieve self-sufficiency.

“As part of our strategy to succeed in Iraq,” President Bush said July 13, “I not only reinforced our military efforts with more troops, we also surged civilians to work with our military to help the reconciliation efforts in a country that is still recovering from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein."

Bush spoke to White House reporters following a videoconference with Ambassador Ryan Crocker and PRT members in Baghdad, Iraq.

The teams include U.S. soldiers and civilian experts in fields as diverse as law, economic development, agriculture, engineering and urban planning. Teams are tailored to fit the needs of the Iraqi communities they serve. According to a July 13 White House fact sheet, the teams are considered an essential component of the U.S.-Iraqi counterinsurgency strategy, helping the Iraqi people expand stable areas and promoting self-reliance. (See fact sheet.)

In Ninewa, a PRT helped establish the Mosul branch of the Central Criminal Court of Iraq, which has tried 173 terrorism cases and brought 96 militants to justice. In Diyala, the PRT joined forces with area residents to renovate the Baqubah General Hospital, adding a special unit dedicated to infant and child health care.  The Baghdad PRT has helped fund 42 projects totaling $81 million to help rebuild the capital.

There are 20 PRTs operating in Iraq, double the number in 2006, after the addition of 10 new teams operating alongside coalition brigade combat teams deployed in and around the Iraqi capital as part of the "surge" strategy. Personnel have increased from 290 to 600, with new volunteers arriving daily.

U.S. soldiers and civilians also are engaged in several coalition-led PRTs, including the British operation in Basra, an Italian team in Dhi Qar and a South Korean effort in Erbil. Four additional PRTs are planned for the capital region and one more in the southwest, which will bring the total to 25 PRTs.

The teams are bolstering moderate Iraqis by identifying local leaders who reject violence, then helping them communicate more effectively with the national government. The teams help these leaders identify essential projects and channel reconstruction money into those projects.

By fostering improved communication between national and provincial authorities, PRTs are designed to help heal the Sunni-Shiite rift, which has been exacerbated by decades of tyranny and exploited by foreign terrorists to encourage sectarian violence.

"These people at the grassroots understand that most Iraqis want to live in peace and that, with time, we'll be able to help them realize that dream," Bush said.

A transcript of Bush’s remarks is available on the White House Web site.

(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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