- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 12, 2003


The United States would put Iraqi soldiers to work rebuilding the country and pay to keep Iraq's civilian government bureaucracy running after a war, Pentagon officials said yesterday.

"It is likely that you are going to have a number of Iraqi people who are doing things Iraqi military that are not combatants and not problems for the coalition, or government officials running ministries providing water and food and things for people," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said.

An interim Iraqi government would be established within months, and Iraq's oil industry would be expected to continue to be overseen by the officials of the United Nations who run the oil-for-food program under the U.N. sanctions program, officials said at a Pentagon briefing given on the condition they not be named.

At the Capitol, meanwhile, two Iraq experts said at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing that rebuilding Iraq would take years not months. The undertaking could cost $20 billion to $51 billion in the first year alone, said Eric Schwartz of the Council on Foreign Relations and Gordon Adams of George Washington University.

Mr. Rumsfeld said the money to administer Iraq after a war could come not only from the United States, but also from seized Iraqi assets, the oil-for-food sanctions program and donations from other countries. "It's not as if the country is destitute," he said.

President Bush set up an interagency, postwar planning team in January, with retired Army Lt. Gen. Jay Garner leading the team from offices in the Pentagon.

Gen. Garner would act as a civil administrator in Iraq if President Saddam Hussein's government is overthrown by a U.S.-led invasion. Garner would report to Gen. Tommy Franks, commander of U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf area.

Postwar planners said the United States would keep most of Iraq's bureaucracy intact, at least at the beginning, so that schools, hospitals, police and water systems would continue to operate. The U.S. administrator would arrange to pay salaries of Iraqi government officials and the operating budgets of those ministries during the transition.

The United States "would find some way to see that they are given enough to live while they're staying in place and performing what would be characterized as a useful purpose," Mr. Rumsfeld said.

Bush administration officials would not give a cost estimate. The president said at his news conference last week that the level of expected expenditures on a war would be known after he requests supplemental outlays from Congress to cover them.

At the Senate hearing, the committee chairman, Sen. Richard G. Lugar, Indiana Republican, and other lawmakers said they were frustrated at the lack of information about Iraqi reconstruction from the administration. They noted that Gen. Garner canceled a scheduled appearance before the committee yesterday.

The United States plans to hire more than 100 Iraqi expatriates living in Western countries to act as advisers and liaisons with Iraqi ministries for as long as six months, the officials said.

Iraqi military personnel would be put to work rebuilding damaged or dilapidated infrastructure such as roads and bridges. Officials said they would be paid by U.S. administrators in Iraq and eventually demobilized.

Teams under Gen. Garner would be led by civilian U.S. workers. The official in charge of reconstruction efforts would come from the U.S. Agency for International Development. The civil administration coordinator would be a Pentagon official and the humanitarian aid chief a former ambassador.

Also involved would be three regional coordinators for northern, central and southern Iraq.

Plans would have an Iraqi governmental system to be developed by Iraqis working with the U.S. teams, the senior official at the briefing said.

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