Monday, January 15, 2007

Reconstruction Plan Looking Unworkable

Doubts are arising among members of the U.S. mission in Baghdad as to the feasibility of an augmented reconstruction effort by Americans in Iraq.

While the plan does call for the creation of about a dozen new reconstruction teams around Iraq, most of the new personnel will be added to existing teams, the plan indicates. While 400 may sound like a small number compared with the plan to increase the number of troops by more than 20,000, the existing 10 reconstruction teams have, at most, a total of about 100 civilian specialists, and recruiting that many has been difficult, officials say.

Whether it is wise to increase the staffing of the teams by a factor of five is likely to be questioned by existing team members, the American official said.

That is because extremely restrictive security regulations have made it difficult for the specialists already on the provincial reconstruction teams, often called P.R.T.'s, to leave their bases and work with Iraqis, the official said, adding that the cumbersome rules must be followed even in relatively safe areas in the northern and central parts of Iraq. "Across the board they have to follow the same security rules," the official said. "So the P.R.T.'s that could be successful still can’t get out in the field."

In addition, because oversight agencies have previously reported that the existing teams have had trouble equipping themselves with items as essential as pencils and other office supplies, a fresh wave of officials could find it more difficult than expected to begin their work for reasons other than security.

The teams also have been criticized for relying heavily on uniformed personnel whose skills are poorly matched with specialized needs in the field. That concern has repeatedly come up because the State Department has had great difficulty persuading civilian officials to accept jobs at the dangerous, isolated and uncomfortable bases in the Iraqi provinces.

The document does not explain how so many additional government officials with the specialized skills called for will be recruited when the State Department has found it so difficult to bring a much smaller number to Iraq in the past.

So it looks like the major part of the economic leg of our new counterinsurgency "strategy" has been put forward because it sounds good in Washington -- but is in practice unworkable.

Like so much of the war up to this point.

<< Home