Officials: No quick fix for Iraq problems
Stars and Stripes June 29, 2003
BAGHDAD, Iraq — Three senior members of the coalition military and civilian authorities in Iraq offered no quick fixes Saturday to ongoing security and power concerns in the country.
The officials, speaking to the media on condition their names not be used, insisted that both situations are getting better. But they admitted there’s still improvement to be made.
“Security across the country is unquestionably better,” said the senior military leader.
But in the wake of a series of fatal attacks recently on American and British forces, he said it’s clear that there are still some groups in the country that are either still loyal to former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, opposed to the American presence in the country or fomenting unrest in hopes of gaining more power themselves.
“I think we all realize that conflict is not over in this country yet,” the senior military leader said.
“We are taking casualties,” he said, but such attacks “are not causing us to falter in any way.”
He said coalition forces continue to arrest criminals and former members of Saddam’s regime on a daily basis and to seize large quantities of weapons.
“We have the forces present in this country to accomplish our mission,” he said.
But he admitted that more weapons and combatants from other countries opposed to American policies may be entering the country, just as American troops confront those already here.
“We’re trying to re-establish Iraqi control of the borders,” he said. “We’ve got hundreds or thousands [of miles] of desert territory that we can’t control. We’re not going to defeat them by trying to control the borders. That’s an impossible task.”
The two senior members of the military’s civilian counterpart didn’t use “impossible” while describing the country’s current power situation, but they weren’t painting a rosy picture, either.
One of them detailed the sources of electricity in Iraq, stating the country generated about 56 percent through thermal plants. Add another 23 percent from the burning of natural gas and about 80 percent comes from the conversion of petroleum. The rest comes from water projects.
The production was virtually at zero when coalition forces took control of the country but has increased currently to about 3,100 megawatts a day. But that’s not close to meeting the country’s needs.
One megawatt, the official said, is enough to light about 1,000 homes.
He said recent attacks on the power grid have disrupted the flow of electricity into Baghdad. He also inferred that residents in the country’s largest city notice the electricity shortage more than others because they had generally received more power than other areas during Saddam’s regime.
“I think it’s fair to say that about 80 percent of the population of Iraq has more power now than they did during the regime,” the official said.
But both civilian officials said the system is outdated and in need of repairs.
The second official said teams have been busy surveying the system and that the results would be used to determine projects to be undertaken.
But he estimated that it might take three years to complete the projects and give the country a reliable system that would meet its growing needs, especially if new businesses sprout up and residents continue to use their newfound ability to purchase an array of electrical gadgets and equipment.