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BAGHDAD — The U.S. office responsible for rebuilding Iraq has missed goals and juggled finances due to the country’s deadly guerrilla insurgency.

Insurgents have found improvement projects to be inviting targets, according to a senior U.S. official here. “We are clearly in a wartime environment,” said the State Department figure, speaking at a briefing. According to briefing guidelines, the official is not be identified.

Large power turbines crawling across the landscape are difficult to miss on the horizon. Insurgents terrorize base camps and individual contractors as well as continually bombarding the International Zone in central Baghdad.

“They get shot at a lot,” the official said, particularly of convoys hauling large infrastructure items like turbines. “All of this affects schedules. It affects our ability to see how projects are doing.”

Terrorism and kidnappings have cost the United States money. U.S. officials moved $1.8 billion from the improvements column and put it toward protecting staff like drivers, contractors and engineers. All told, the U.S. Embassy’s Iraq Reconstruction Management Offices is slated to spend $5 billion of its $18 billion budget on protecting its people.

“The insurgency is more intense now,” the official said. The attacks don’t always kill people — but too often, the official confirmed, they do. And even when attacks fail to take life, they stifle progress. Schedules slip.

This comes as continued fighting creates yet more work once the smoke of battle clears. Take Najaf, a city considered holy by Shiite Muslims because it is home of the tomb of Imam Ali, the sect’s founder.

“The number of pilgrims coming there is very large, and they need hotels,” the official said. The Americans are focused largely on cleaning up Najaf. Construction is simply more difficult.

One measure the Americans hope will protect staff and scheduling is using contractors from the same town in which work is to be done.

In addition to lessening the need for security, the plan is expected to lower labor costs.

Danger on the ground also has caused worries for upcoming elections. The embassy’s reconstruction office now has an additional $80 million set aside for voter education and election monitors.

Despite dangers, the official said the U.S. money has gone to good use, including 37 electrical substations built or repaired, 187 new schools, four police stations and five fire stations. And projects to secure it all include paying for 39,000 police and 14,000 border guards.

The official also gently criticized a Reuters news report suggesting the government had intentionally inflated the number of jobs it claimed were created by USAID projects. A government report claiming that figure was 88,436 jobs was later scuttled in favor of the more conservative figure of 55,463.

The total number of Iraqis employed daily by U.S.-funded projects was finally settled at 75,000. Not all of those, however, were paid for by USAID. The official said it was a legitimate mistake. “When given a choice between conspiracy and chaos [for accounting errors]” he said, “choose chaos.”

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