By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
Nov. 14, 2007 - Security in Iraq has made tremendous gains, and now is the time to cement that security in place with economic gains, coalition officials said in Baghdad today. The U.S. Defense Department is spending money in Iraq to get basic services working and to prime the pump for private businesses, said Paul A. Brinkley, deputy undersecretary of defense for business transformation. Brinkley was joined at the news conference by Air Force Maj. Gen. Darryl Scott, commander of Joint Contracting Command Iraq, and Navy Rear Adm. Gregory Smith, chief of Multinational Force Iraq Communications Division.
Coalition officials know economic development is crucial for long-term security in Iraq. "One consistent theme is using DoD spending as an instrument of economic development, enabling Iraqis to build infrastructure, stimulating private banking and re-engaging Iraq's industrial base," Brinkley said.
U.S. money helps build infrastructure and create jobs, "but it can only be done where services are restored," he said. "Al Anbar province is a huge consumer of electric power, but basic services have not been sustained. Restoring more reliable services will help, for example, with mineral-processing operations, which help the local economy. The state of local services restrains us and directs us to focus our efforts in areas where services have been restored."
While the presence of coalition forces in an area is important, it does not have to be a large presence. "It's easier to engage where there's infrastructure and we have a presence or partnerships," Scott said. "We don't necessarily need combat force if there's a provincial reconstruction team, which can make contacts to understand what the local needs are and be able to work with provincial councils and reconstruction teams to develop goals and award contracts."
Iraq has the potential to become one of the most vibrant economies in the Middle East, the men said. Iraq has oil, water and a highly trained workforce.
The U.S. and coalition objective in Iraq is not to bankroll the Iraqi economy, "but to stimulate growth and help the Iraqis take their rightful place in the world economy," Brinkley said. "The objective is to leave behind a business community that can take care of everything on its own. Iraq has a potentially vibrant business community. We are merely trying to put a little wind in their sails."
Brinkley said planners "will know irreversible momentum when we see it." The Iraqi people will have to see that progress is being made and then move to reinforce that progress, he said. "We are monitoring the statistics," Brinkley said. "Creating 30,000 sustained jobs in a municipal area leads to four to five times as many jobs in services and other industries, and the economy takes off."
Iraq's oil sector is lagging because of a lack of agreement on laws and profit-sharing, Brinkley said. Still, that industry is poised to take off once the Iraqi government comes to an agreement on hydrocarbon laws.
"Iraq can serve as a beacon in the Middle East and take its rightful place in the global economy," he said. "Our interest is making that happen as soon as possible for the sake of our troops."