- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Despite declining violence in Iraq, the shaky state of security is still impeding the nation’s $100 billion recovery and rebuilding effort, a new report said today.

In recent months, progress has been made on some projects as the escalation of U.S. forces ordered by President Bush reduced attacks on coalition forces and Iraqis to their lowest levels in more than a year, according to the latest quarterly report from Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction.

But the decline notwithstanding, the report said: “Security in Iraq continues to be a significant concern for Iraqi citizens, as well as reconstruction staff, management and contractors.”

As of the end of September, the whole reconstruction program totaled more than $103 billion — $45 billion appropriated by the U.S., $40 billion in Iraqi money and $18 billion pledged by other countries.

About 60 percent of the U.S. money has been spent so far, said the report, which detailed how the money was used. For instance, it said the U.S. has invested about $4.6 billion in rebuilding the country’s power system — a task some estimate will ultimately cost $20 billion.

“On the infrastructure front, new U.S.-financed electrical projects, a drop in attacks on the electrical grid and improved maintenance programs helped push Iraq’s electricity output this quarter to its highest levels since the 2003 invasion,” Mr. Bowen said.

Average electricity production reached 4,550 megawatts per day because of new efficiencies, new generation capacity and fewer attacks on power lines and repair teams, especially in the Baghdad area, the report said. But output remained less than the 6,000 megawatts that officials set as the goal in October 2003 — and well short of the about 8,000-megawatt demand.

In other essential services, the report said:

• The U.S. has invested $1.7 billion in the oil sector since 2003. In the last quarter, production was at 2.2 billion barrels a day, still below prewar levels of 2.6 billion. Major challenges continue to be attacks on pipelines and corruption such as oil smuggling, the report said.

• The U.S. has obligated most of the $2.1 billion that it is spending to help rebuild Iraq’s water and sewage systems — an undertaking expected to eventually cost more than $14 billion. Because that money is running out, military commanders are spending more from so-called “emergency response” funds they get to hand out for local projects they think are important. They have spent about $530 million on local water and sanitation projects, the report said.

• The U.S. has funded more than 140 health care centers. But health remains “a significant concern,” the report said, particularly noting the movement of refugees in the war.

• In transportation, takeoffs and landings at Iraqi airports decreased in the most recent quarter and violence continued to hamper train movement, crews and track maintenance on the railway from Fallujah to Ramadi. Although there are about 180 people on the railway payroll, only 20 reportedly were “working regularly.”

• The U.S. effort to help Iraq repair Mosul Dam on the northern Tigris River “has yet to yield significant improvements,” it said. The dam, Iraq’s largest, was built in the 1980s in an area prone to sinkholes. Twenty-one contracts have been awarded totaling $27 million.

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