By Gerry J. Gilmore, American Forces Press ServiceMarch 30, 2007
WASHINGTON (American Forces Press Service, March 29, 2007) - Stories of violence are overshadowing the many successes achieved by U.S., coalition and Iraqi rebuilding efforts in Baghdad and other areas of the country, a senior U.S. military engineer said today.
"You can't pick up a newspaper or turn on television these days without seeing violence every day in Iraq," Brig. Gen. Michael Walsh, commanding general of the Army Corps of Engineers' Gulf Region Division, said to Pentagon reporters during a satellite-carried news conference from Iraq.
"What you don't see are the successes in the reconstruction program (and) how reconstruction is making a difference in the lives of everyday Iraqi people, especially here in Baghdad," Walsh pointed out.
The United States has provided nearly $22 billion for Iraq reconstruction projects, Walsh said, noting it'll likely cost between $60 billion to $80 billion to restore Iraq's worn infrastructure.
"The U.S. government and the government of Iraq are working together to yield positive, tangible reconstruction results that are significantly improving the lives of the Iraqi people," Walsh said.
Operation Law and Order, the U.S., coalition and Iraqi anti-terrorist campaign launched in mid-February, is making progress in reducing the violence in Baghdad and Anbar province, Walsh said.
However, "it will take a continued commitment and determination over the course of many months" for the anti-terror operation to succeed, he added.
Meanwhile, ongoing electrical, water treatment, sewage, road, and school reconstruction projects in Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq are giving Iraqis hope for the future, the general said.
Although reconstruction work in Iraq is challenging and difficult, Walsh said, those efforts are vital to Iraq's progress toward a peaceful, democratic society.
"As citizens feel safer, conditions will be set for the resumption and improvement of basic essential services," the general said. Today, out of 2,500 projects planned for Baghdad, almost 2,000 water, sewer, medical, electrical, school and other projects have been completed, Walsh said.
He noted the completion of 28 projects totaling $24 million for police, fire, and military facilities established within Baghdad's 10 security districts as part of Operation Law and Order. Other completed reconstruction projects in Baghdad include: 21 education projects totaling $1.1 million, 24 health projects totaling $12.9 million, 20 water projects totaling $10 million, and 79 electricity projects totaling $125 million.
All of these projects improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of Baghdad's citizens, Walsh said, noting that about 30,000 Iraqis are employed in various reconstruction projects across Iraq. About 60 percent of Corps of Engineers' work contracts are performed by Iraqi companies, the general added. Since 2003, the Corps of Engineers has contracted around $8.5 billion of work for Iraq reconstruction projects, Walsh said, with another $3.5 billion earmarked for work to be completed over the next 18 months.
Walsh was joined by Ibrahim Mustafa Hussain, Baghdad's deputy mayor for technical affairs, who said ongoing reconstruction work across the city is giving residents hope for a better future.
Hussain said his office provides roads, water, sewage treatment and other public services to Baghdad's 6.5 million residents. About 75 percent of Baghdad is now served by public sewage systems, he said, noting his office is working with U.S. and coalition engineers to extend public sewage as well as water and electrical service across the municipality.
Baghdad's infrastructure suffered greatly from neglect during the 1980s, Hussain explained. But, the current reconstruction work being performed across the city will certainly improve the lives of Baghdad's citizens, he said.
"We've started a lot of projects to improve the situation in Baghdad," Hussain said. "Everybody here is optimistic that the situation will be better in the future. We hope in the future that you will see (that) Baghdad is a better city and a good city as it was before."
Walsh, too, predicted better days ahead for Baghdad's residents and all of Iraq's people.
"Iraq is a country rich in natural resources and intelligent and talented people," Walsh said. "And, I'm confident that by continuing to work with our Iraqi partners in reconstruction and focusing on essential service projects we can help build a bright future for Iraq."