One big feature of Chimpy’s “New Way Forward” in Iraq is the creation of hundreds of “Provincial Reconstruction Teams” – PRTs – to help rebuild Iraq. One small problem: the folks heading up those PRTs say they can’t do the job.
US officials tasked with helping rebuild Iraq as part of President George W. Bush’s new strategy for the war-ravaged country admitted it will take “a very long time” to finish the job.
The heads of the 80-member Baghdad PRT [Provincial Reconstruction Team], the country’s biggest, told reporters by videoconference that they had achieved some modest successes since starting work 10 months ago with a budget of 100 million dollars — out of some 16 billion spent on reconstruction since 2003.
These included getting some sewers repaired and helping local officials plan for the construction of 10 new schools in the city of six million.
But they stressed that the role of the PRT’s — due to grow in number from the 10 currently operating country-wide to 18 under Bush’s new plan — was not actually to rebuild Iraq.
“The Provincial Reconstruction Team is a bit of a misnomer — we are not a reconstruction agency,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Ruch, deputy leader of the Baghdad unit.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, whose department runs the PRT’s even though they are joint civilian-military units, told Congress last week that she planned to deploy hundreds of civilians across the Iraqi countryside as part of the expanded economic effort.
“Success in Iraq relies on more than military efforts alone — it also requires robust political and economic progress,” she said.
But Joseph Gregoire, the civilian leader of Baghdad PRT, said that effort would require much more than the 12-24 month missions expected for the State Department teams.
“It will take a very long time to get to the point where the Iraqis will be able to meet the needs of the population independent of donor action,” he said.