The Bush administration outlined plans Monday for more than $100 million in immediate humanitarian aid to a postwar Iraq, including stockpiling water and other relief supplies.
U.N. aid workers are already leaving Iraq, but U.S. officials said they plan to minimize disruption to the U.N. oil-for-food distribution system, which provides rations for almost all Iraqis and is the sole source of food for 60 percent of the population.
Elliott Abrams, director for the Middle East at the National Security Council, said that planning for a postwar Iraq was difficult because it was impossible to predict the severity of war-related damage.
"We recognize that military action, if necessary, can have adverse humanitarian consequences and our planning is based on mitigating these consequences," he said at a briefing for American and international reporters organized by the White House's new Office of Global Communications.
Representatives from the State Department, Pentagon, U.S Agency for International Development and other departments took part in the briefing.
They included a representative of retired Army Lt. Gen. Jay M. Garner, who will head a Pentagon-based office to assess Iraq's resources and to be ready to help it rebuild. Garner had a leading role in the post-Gulf war effort to aid Kurdish Iraqi refugees.
Abrams said he could not provide a timeline on how quickly administration of Iraq could be turned over to Iraqi civilians after any conflict because the situation may vary from region to region "but the general principle is to do this as soon as possible."
"At the local, provincial and national level," Abrams said, "the sooner the Iraqis can take over the better it will be for the Iraqis themselves and for coalition forces."
Andrew Natsios, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, said $26.2 million already had been spent on various aspects of the planned relief effort, including aid to U.N. organizations, and discussions were underway on providing another $56 million.
The State Department has given the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees $15 million in anticipation of the displacement of up to two million people within Iraq or to neighboring nations.
Stockpiling in the area includes $17 million worth of blankets, water containers, shelter supplies, essential medicines and other relief items for 1 million people, plus nearly 3 million emergency daily rations similar to those dropped over Afghanistan in the first weeks of that conflict.
Abrams said other governments in the coalition had promised to provide additional millions to the United Nations and international humanitarian organizations.
The government is training and preparing a 60-person Disaster Assistance Response Team that would enter alliance-controlled areas of Iraq to coordinate relief involving the government, the United Nations and international humanitarian organizations.
The team soon will have representatives in Kuwait, Turkey, Jordan and Qatar, a White House fact sheet said.