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Wednesday, September 15, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
Rising violence curtails U.S. plan to rebuild Iraq
By Jonathan Weisman
Including previous reallocations, the administration hopes to redirect more than 20 percent of $18.4 billion in reconstruction funds to cope with an escalating insurgency and the glacial pace of rebuilding. With two weeks left in the fiscal year, and 11 months after Congress approved the money, only $1.1 billion of it has been spent, because of attacks, contracting problems and other issues, according to figures released by the State Department.
Marc Grossman, the U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs, concluded that "without a significant reallocation of resources for the security and law-enforcement sector, the short-term stability of Iraq would be compromised and the longer-term prospects of a free and democratic Iraq undermined."
The redirected money would be used for, among other things, 82,000 more Iraqi security personnel, including an increase of about 65 percent in police forces and a near-doubling of the number of border agents.
Even administration allies said the State Department has been slow coming to terms with a security environment radically different from what was envisioned when the reconstruction plans were drafted last fall.
In October, President Bush fought to preserve ambitious plans to repair Iraq's electrical and water systems, build hospitals and prisons, and construct roads, bridges, rail lines and ports.
About $7.1 billion has since been directed to contractors, but little of it has hit the streets. Of $4.2 billion designated for water and sanitation, $16 million has been spent, according to State Department documents sent to Congress. Of $786 million earmarked for health, $2 million has been spent. Only $7 million has been used from the $367 million designated for roads and bridges. Just $43 million of $1 billion designated has been spent on justice, public safety and civil society programs.
The State Department hopes to shift $1.8 billion to security and law enforcement, $450 million to Iraqi oil production, $380 million to economic reforms, agriculture and private sector development, $286 million to short-term job-creation projects, $180 million to prepare for elections scheduled for January and $360 million toward forgiving long-standing Iraqi debt to the United States.
Most of the transferred money would go toward training and equipping 45,000 more Iraqi police, 16,000 border patrol officials and 20 additional battalions of Iraqi national guardsmen.
"If the shift of these funds slows down reconstruction, security may suffer in the long run," Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar, R-Ind., says in a statement scheduled to be delivered today on Capitol Hill.
Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage will defend the request Sept. 24 at a House hearing, a day after Iraq's interim president, Ayad Allawi, is expected to address a joint session of Congress.
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