Rebuilding Baghdad Is Retail, and Piecemeal

The Baghdad district of South Dora is a mixed Sunni-Shiite area ripped apart by sectarian violence. In the 6 months that U.S. troops from Fort Lewis, Wash., have been based there, they have managed to cut the murder rate in half. But improving living conditions remains a challenge. Rebuilding neighborhoods and providing basic services is as much a part of the Baghdad security plan as the troop "surge". But the troops complain that they are getting little help from either the Iraqi government or the U.S. State Department. Despite President Bush's talk of provisional reconstruction teams, there is almost no evidence of any civilian-led reconstruction in Iraq. Four years after American troops arrived in Baghdad, they are still taking the lead in providing the basics: ensuring minimal health care, improving conditions in schools, organizing trash collection and getting markets reopened. Evidence of all the big bucks spent in Iraq is absent, and the Iraq ministries seem to be doing nothing. Despite some improvements in security, contractors often drop projects after being threatened.

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