Some critics argue the Iraq reconstruction effort has been wasteful, resulting in unwanted facilities that will not likely be maintained by the Iraqis as U.S. forces draw down. That assertion left unchallenged is misleading to those not fully informed on the issue.

While it’s true there have been setbacks and lessons learned, it’s important to note this is the largest reconstruction effort since the Marshall Plan, with one major difference — this effort is being undertaken in a war zone under hostile conditions. Our efforts here have focused on rebuilding vital infrastructure such as water, sewage and electrical facilities, schools, hospitals and health clinics, housing and transportation networks, as well as developing the capacity of Iraqis to operate and maintain these facilities.

While there have certainly been some disappointments in the past, we’ve also witnessed many successes resulting in quality-of-life improvements for Iraqis. We are, in fact, providing hope for the citizens of Iraq by helping them become self-sufficient.

For example, the Nasariyah water treatment plant near Baghdad — which was once a dumping ground for trash — was completed more than one year ago. This plant is now operated by Iraqis. It is well maintained and provides approximately 24 million gallons of clean water to more than 500,000 Iraqi citizens every day.

I’m not saying there haven’t been some challenges along the way but we must not allow a few disappointments to cloud the overall success of our efforts to rebuild a sustainable Iraq.

Bottom line — the Iraqi people have a much brighter future now with new schools, clean water and more reliable electricity than they’ve ever had before. It’s far from what we’re used to in the U.S., but it’s a move in the right direction. Americans can be proud of what our soldiers and civilians have accomplished and are continuing to accomplish here in Iraq.

Col. Dionysios “Dan” AnninosGulf Region District commanderBaghdad

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