By Donna Miles
WASHINGTON, Sept. 14, 2006 – As Iraqi and coalition forces work hand-in-hand to secure Iraq, thousands of reconstruction projects under way are providing another critical contribution to the country's long-term success, the Army Corps of Engineers commander in Iraq told reporters today. The United States has contributed almost $22 billion toward a massive rebuilding effort that's critical to the Baghdad security plan and Iraq's progress toward democracy, Army Maj. Gen. William H. McCoy Jr., commander of the Corps of Engineers' Gulf Region Division, said during a Baghdad news briefing today.
Understanding the extent and impact of these projects is important to assessing conditions in Iraq, he said. He noted that the American public is bombarded with news about violence in Iraq, but also needs insight into successes of the reconstruction program to get "a balanced view of how we are making a difference in the lives of the Iraqi people every day," McCoy said.
McCoy told reporters about an ambitious reconstruction plan that's helping address health, education, electricity, water, sewer, transportation, communications and other needs around the country. It ranges from short-term, relatively easy fixes like trash removal to an ambitious effort to increase power generation around the country.
"We are making incredible headway in Iraq and in Baghdad," he said. As of Sept. 12, more than 2,800 of more than 3,800 projects planned under the Iraq Reconstruction Program had been completed. Work has started on another 600.
Much of this effort focuses on Baghdad, Iraq's most populated city and the seat of its government. McCoy called reconstruction projects there vital to the city's security situation.
"So the Gulf Region Division is integrally involved in Operation Together Forward to improve the essential services and the quality of life of Iraqis living in Baghdad," he said.
An initiative called "Iraqi First" is ensuring as many contracts as possible for this effort go to Iraqi-owned businesses. "This empowers the citizens of Iraq to play a major role in rebuilding their nation and helps boost the nation's economy," he said.
"Likewise, in virtually every project that we are working on today, we work hand-in-hand with the (Iraqi) ministries at the national level and the local director generals to make sure we are building an appropriate facility that they can maintain and then sustain after we turn it over to them," McCoy said.
"By teaming with our Iraqi partners, we are building the foundation for continued leadership and success," he said, "and helping build a brighter future for Iraq."