Official taps civil affairs unit to bring capitalism to Iraq
ARLINGTON, Va. — While the U.S. military’s footprint won’t be a large one as the United States leads an effort to privatize Iraq’s once-government-run industries, the U.S. official tasked with bringing capitalism to Iraq is tapping civil affairs units to aid in the process.
“We are not using troops, but there is an active and extensive civil affairs effort under way that is complementing many of the activities we’re involved in,” said Thomas Foley, the businessman spearheading the effort for the U.S. government.
“[Civil affairs units] are very active in assisting the state-owned enterprises and businesses to get their operations back up and running, and create jobs, and get things back to normal, and making tremendous and laudable progress,” Foley said in an interview.
While much of the country’s industry infrastructure was not destroyed by the war, but instead ravaged by looters following the collapse of the dictatorship, the end result is the same: they’re not up and running. Iraq’s unemployment rate ranges between 50 percent and 60 percent.
“Most of these businesses were not damaged by the war effort,” Foley said.
“Most of the damage in the commercial sector was from looting. In a number of instances, the employees and civil affairs people have worked together to repair the damage from looting so that plants can get back up and running.”
That means putting electrical wires back in buildings, laying plumbing pipes and installing generators, to name a few.
Foley, a Harvard business school graduate “brought in for my experience for operating business, particularly businesses in stressful situations,” has spent about eight weeks in Iraq and anticipates spending eight to 10 months developing recommendations that later will be acted on by the Iraqi governing council.
He is tasked with coming up with recommendations to privatize Iraq’s 200 state-run industries that employed about 500,000 people — industries such as transportation, construction, health and agriculture.
“My main goal is to get the private sector … back up and running to pre-war levels and then to expand it and, through those efforts, get the economy growing and developing a strong job network,” Foley said during an phone interview from Connecticut. He briefly returned to the United States to brief administration leadership.