By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
Sept. 4, 2007 - A task force designed to bolster Iraq's industry has made "measurable progress," placing scores of Iraqi workers in sustainable jobs since the program's June 2006 inception, the deputy secretary of defense said today. The Task Force to Improve Business and Stability Operations in Iraq is "an important dimension" to current overall efforts in Iraq, Gordon England told reporters during a briefing here at the Pentagon.
"All societies need sustainable jobs. People need to be employed to have income to provide for their families, and Iraq is no different," England said. "It is important that we move Iraq from the front pages to the business pages of our newspapers."
A business conference held recently in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, brought together more than 600 participants representing Iraqi business and government, and foreign corporations, the deputy secretary said.
"The objective of conferences like these is to encourage foreign-direct investment in Iraqi companies and to increase the demand for Iraqi goods," said England, who noted that some 75 potential investors attended the conference.
Paul Brinkley, deputy undersecretary of defense for business transformation and task force director, echoed England's comments, saying that efforts over the past 15 months have made "material impact." In that time, private business owners in Iraq have been awarded more than 3,000 contracts, said Brinkley, citing one U.S. official who estimates that these contracts will generate some 50,000 new jobs.
Brinkley called unemployment "a major contributor to instability." He added that economic development brings a reward to stable areas, which enhances security forces' ability to maintain security.
"There's no human population in the world that can sustain high levels of unemployment ... and not experience intended violence, unrest, sympathy with violent actors," he said. "This is why this effort is so important to the Department of Defense."