WASHINGTON – U.S.-led reconstruction efforts in Iraq must be "supercharged" with more people and funding, a Pentagon (search) advisory panel says.
The Defense Department (search) agency overseeing the rebuilding has made progress, "but it lacks the resources, personnel and flexibility to move into the next stage of the mission," according to the report released Thursday.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld (search) asked the five experts to visit Iraq and offer suggestions on how to improve the rebuilding effort. The team's leader was John Hamre (search), the No. 2 official in the Pentagon under President Clinton and the head of the independent Center for Strategic and International Studies.
The report said the Coalition Provisional Authority needs to work quickly to avoid losing the trust and support of Iraqis. Coalition troops will need to stay in Iraq for at least two to five years to back up the fledgling Iraqi police and military, the report said.
It counseled better communication between the authority and Iraqis and within the authority itself. "Under the current setup, the CPA is isolated and cut off from Iraqis," the report said.
It also recommended a "supercharged" effort to get other countries to provide people, money and other aid. "Relying on the war coalition will not produce sufficient resources or capacity," it said.
A spokesman for Rumsfeld said the Defense Department welcomed the Hamre team's suggestions and was studying the report.
"We agree with the assessment there has been enormous progress since the removal of the Saddam Hussein regime and significant challenges lie ahead," Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said. "We might put into practice elements of the findings as appropriate."
Among other the steps called for in the Hamre team's report:
-- A review of the number and tasks for U.S. and coalition troops in Iraq, particularly those providing security. Too many troops are stuck guarding fixed sites instead of patrolling the streets, the report said.
-- A public works program to give Iraqis jobs and keep them out of trouble.
-- Setting up CPA offices, staffed with 20 to 30 people, in each of Iraq's 18 provinces. "Implementation is lagging far behind needs and expectations in key areas," partially because the CPA has too few employees at the regional level, the report said.
-- Changing the rules to give the CPA more flexibility to spend money "without project-by-project oversight from Washington."