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Wolfowitz on Visit to Iraq to Assess Rebuilding Effort

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  • Joseph M. Hochstein
    New York Times, July 18, 2003 Wolfowitz on Visit to Iraq to Assess Rebuilding Effort By ERIC SCHMITT
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 18, 2003
      New York Times, July 18, 2003
      Wolfowitz on Visit to Iraq to Assess Rebuilding Effort

      BAGHDAD, Iraq, July 17 — Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D.
      Wolfowitz arrived here today for a five-day tour of Iraq to
      assess the Bush administration's successes and shortcomings in
      the postwar reconstruction effort.

      "I'm here to understand what is needed to complete the transition
      to a government and society of, by and for the Iraqi people," Mr.
      Wolfowitz said in brief remarks to reporters traveling with him,
      at the airport here.

      In the next several days, Mr. Wolfowitz will crisscross the
      country, meeting with allied troops, Iraqi politicians, American
      occupation officials and others, to get a firsthand sense of what
      corrections may be necessary in the postwar strategy. His boss,
      Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, visited Baghdad for a day
      six weeks ago.

      A senior administration official said Mr. Wolfowitz's priorities
      would include security, the economy and Iraq's emerging civilian
      political structure.

      The official said Mr. Wolfowitz planned to spend little time
      talking to officials engaged in the hunt for unconventional
      weapons, saying that was now a job for the intelligence agencies.
      A 1,500-member American team headed by a two-star Army general
      recently assumed responsibility for the weapons search.

      On his arrival, Mr. Wolfowitz immediately launched into meetings
      with L. Paul Bremer III, the senior American civilian
      administrator for Iraq; Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez of the Army, the
      allied ground commander; and their top aides.

      Speaking to reporters afterward, Mr. Bremer gave a largely upbeat
      report, saying the newly appointed 25-member Iraqi Governing
      Council could finish writing a new constitution in the next six
      to eight months, beginning in September, paving the way for
      democratic elections.

      "You ought to be able to have elections by next year," Mr. Bremer
      said in an interview at his headquarters here, one of Saddam
      Hussein's many ornate palaces now occupied by the allies.

      Mr. Bremer acknowledged that Iraq had severe unemployment, which
      he said was much worse than that in the United States during the
      Great Depression. But he added that the allies were now paying
      pensions to Iraqi civil servants and stipends to former members
      of the Iraqi Army, and was taking steps to promote the growth of
      small businesses and to clear irrigation canals for farmers.

      Other allied officials gave a more sobering warning that
      restoring security, especially in and around Baghdad, and
      rebuilding Iraq's shattered economy were daunting challenges that
      would take years. All officials emphasized that the goal was to
      shift responsibilities to Iraqis.

      "Anyone who comes here and thinks this will be an easy ride is
      mistaken," said Bernard B. Kerik, the former New York City police
      commissioner who is the senior allied adviser to the Iraqi
      Interior Ministry.

      Mr. Kerik said the number of joint patrols by Iraqi and American
      security forces had increased to 1,100 a day from about 75 a day
      when he arrived seven weeks ago.

      But he acknowledged that only 4,000 to 5,000 Iraqi police
      officers had returned to duty in Baghdad, a quarter of what
      allied officials say this city of 4.5 million people needs. Mr.
      Kerik added that virtually all of those officers would have to go
      through a three-week course to learn patrolling techniques and
      sensitivity to human rights.

      Overall, about 32,000 Iraqi police officers have returned to the
      job, about half of the nationwide goal, which Mr. Kerik said
      would take at least 18 months to reach.

      Sifting through successes as well as disappointments will be one
      of the main tasks for Mr. Wolfowitz, one of the principal
      intellectual architects of the administration's Iraq policy.

      This is his first visit to Iraq since the end of the major combat
      and his third over all, counting two trips he made shortly after
      the 1991 Persian Gulf war. One was to visit troops withdrawing
      from Iraq, the other to Kurdish areas in the north. A senior
      administration official said Mr. Wolfowitz had wanted to come
      sooner but held off to give Mr. Bremer more time to establish his

      Mr. Wolfowitz made no public comments today about the strains on
      the nearly 150,000 American troops, nor on the latest audiotape
      purporting to be a recording from Mr. Hussein.

      Echoing comments by officials in Washington, Mr. Bremer said it
      was essential to provide proof of Mr. Hussein's death or capture.

      It is needed, he said, to reassure a fearful Iraqi citizenry and
      to deny a rallying point for Baath Party loyalists and other
      guerrillas, who continue to attack American troops and Iraqis who
      cooperate with American officials.

      "The enemy has been watching us and they've adapted, and we're
      adapting to them," said Col. Guy Shields, a spokesman for the
      military command here.

      Colonel Shields said the latest series of raids against remnants
      of Mr. Hussein's security forces had captured 40 senior officials
      since the operation started on Sunday.

      Mr. Bremer said Iran continued to interfere in fledgling
      political reconstruction, including Tehran s intelligence
      service. "It's not possible to rebuild a country if a country's
      neighbor is trying to pick it apart," he said.
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