ORHA to hire Iraqis to work in reconstruction

12 March 2003
US Defence Department officials told reporters on 11 March in a briefing in the Pentagon that the Office of Reconstruction & Humanitarian Assistance (OHRA), a unit set up in January and headed by retired general Jay Garner, is to hire more than 100 'free Iraqis' on 90 to 180-day contracts to work on reconstruction in Iraq.

'We think that's a good recipe, to have people that were born and raised in these provinces but now have lived in a democracy,' an unidentified official was reported as saying at the briefing by the official American Forces Press Service. 'And now they can explain things to the people there who have been oppressed for 30 years.' The official said he hopes to hire Iraqis with expertise in public health administration and other specific areas.

The official said that in the immediate aftermath of any conflict, a civil administrator, who is a senior Defence Department civilian official, would co-ordinate efforts in Iraq and report directly to the chief of the US Central Command, General Tommy Franks. The administrator is to oversee three separate teams co-ordinating reconstruction, civil administration and humanitarian assistance. The identity of the official was not disclosed, raising the possibility that it will not be Garner. Garner was criticised for failing to appear as scheduled at a senate hearing about reconstruction due to have taken place on 11 March.

The official said that the cornerstone of the plan would entail keeping Iraqi officials in their current positions within civil ministries, police and military forces and courts and to continue paying them. Regular Iraqi army soldiers would provide the manpower for many civil reconstruction projects.

The official estimated that the Defense Department could get the mechanisms for Iraqi self-governance into place within 'several months'.

Speaking at a press briefing later on 11 March, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said that part of the finance for immediate reconstruction could come from frozen Iraqi government assets and the oil-for-food programme. He said there would be a humanitarian effort and a donors' conference.

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