WASHINGTON – As nearly two years of insurgent attacks and intermittent electricity attest in Iraq (search), the hard work of war isn't over when the shooting stops. The State Department (search) has set up a new office to manage the aftermath of war and try to prevent extremism from taking hold in desperate places.
"It's not just strong states we need to be concerned with," Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said Wednesday. "It's weak states and failed states and failing states."
Hopeless and poor countries are breeding grounds for terrorists like the Sept. 11 hijackers, Burns said.
Since the attacks in New York and Washington, the United States has helped topple the militant Taliban (search) government in Afghanistan and is now overseeing rebuilding efforts there, and overthrew Saddam Hussein's dictatorship in Iraq.
The mission statement for the State Department's new office of reconstruction and stabilization says it is to "lead, coordinate, and institutionalize U.S. government civilian capacity to prevent or prepare for post-conflict situations, and to help stabilize and reconstruct societies in transition from conflict or civil strife...."
The Bush administration has asked Congress for an emergency $17 million to get the office running and has named a director, former Ambassador to Ukraine Carlos Pascual.
"We have seen how states where chaos and corruption and cruelty reign pose a threat to our neighbors, but also to us," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (search) said in Senate testimony on the budget request last month.
Burns, most recently U.S. ambassador to NATO, noted that the United Nations has mounted 41 peacekeeping missions since the end of the Cold War. Many could have benefited from help coordinating non-governmental, military and other aid, Burns said.
"It's everything we didn't have in Bosnia in 1995," Burns said at a conference on rebuilding war-torn states hosted by the private Institute for Peace.
Pasqual also addressed the group Wednesday.
The Bush administration wants $124 million for the office next year.