July 18, 2003 - With Iraqi expectations and frustrations on the rise, the window for cooperation with the United States is closing rapidly. If Iraqis do not see progress on delivering security, basic services, political involvement and economic activity, the security situation will likely worsen and U.S. efforts and credibility will falter. While the United States and its allies have proven their ability to succeed in key areas, significant challenges lie ahead.
These are the central findings of the first independent review of post-conflict reconstruction operations in Iraq, requested by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Ambassador L. Paul Bremer III. “The enormity of the task ahead cannot be underestimated,” concludes the group of reconstruction experts. “It requires that the entire effort be immediately turbo-charged— by making it more agile and flexible, and providing it with greater funding and personnel.” They emphasized that the coalition must be broadly expanded to include countries and institutions that were not part of the war coalition because financial and human resource needs cannot be met by the U.S. coalition alone.
The team of experts included John Hamre, president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Robert Orr, vice president and director of the Council on Foreign Relations DC office, Frederick Barton, co-director of the Post-Conflict Reconstruction Project at CSIS, Johanna Mendelson-Forman, senior program officer at the UN Foundation, and Bathsheba Crocker, a Council International Affairs Fellow, currently at CSIS.
The team traveled throughout Iraq, visiting 11 major cities and two ports, including nine of Iraq’s 18 governorates (provinces.) They met with over 250 people, including Coalitional Provisional Authority (CPA) officials and staff, coalition military officers, international organization representatives, non-governmental organization (NGO) staff, bilateral donor representatives, and Iraqis from all walks of life.
The group identifies seven critical goals and makes specific recommendations to accomplish them:
- Establish public safety in all parts of the country. Virtually every Iraqi and most CPA and coalition military officials cited this as their number one concern. The current configuration of composite security forces (U.S., coalition, and Iraqi) does not adequately support the reconstruction mission.
- Expand Iraqi ownership of the rebuilding process at the national, provincial and local levels, and ensure success of the newly formed Iraqi Governing Council.
- Put people to work and provide basic economic and social services immediately. Short term public works projects are needed, as is a massive micro-credit program.
- Decentralize reconstruction efforts. They are too big to be handled exclusively by the central occupying authority and national Iraqi Governing Council.
- Implement a concerted, even relentless full-scale marketing campaign to effect a profound change in the Iraqi national frame of mind—from suspicion to trust, from skepticism to hope.
- Quickly mobilize and broaden a new reconstruction coalition that includes countries and organizations beyond the original war fighting coalition.
- Make money more forthcoming and more flexible. “Business as usual” is not an option for operations in Iraq, nor can it be for their funding. CPA will need supplemental appropriations to get through fiscal year 2004, and oil revenue projections for the next few years are low.
Contact: Mark Schoeff, Center for Strategic and International Studies, 202-775-3242
Lisa Shields, Council on Foreign Relations, 212-434-9888