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U.S. News
Bush's Iraq team shares can-do attitude

Leaders cut teeth in Kosovo, northern Iraq, other hot spots

Sunday, April 13, 2003

By Ann McFeatters, Post-Gazette National Bureau

WASHINGTON -- Members of the Bush team charged with rebuilding postwar Iraq have several things in common -- they are old hands at trying to revive sick societies, most are steeped in the belief that the military is the best tool for restoring law and order and they are pragmatic, no-nonsense men and women with a single motto: Get it done.

Gen. Tommy Franks conducts a Central Command Center news conference at Camp As Sayliyah, Doha, Qatar. (Steven Senne, Associated Press)

Several of them were in Iraq in 1991. Others have had experience in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan.

To the discomfort of some Europeans and some members of the United Nations who wanted a non-American civilian in charge, the man who will be overseeing the massive effort to rebuild the country will be the same man in charge of prosecuting the war -- Gen. Tommy Franks. Franks will stay on in Doha, Qatar, but will delegate the day-to-day work to a retired Army lieutenant general named Jay Garner.

Garner, 64, was in northern Iraq in 1991 helping the Kurds set up a kind of country-within-a-country in Operation Provide Comfort. He now heads the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance.

He and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld see eye to eye -- they don't take no for an answer, they are demanding but protective of their staffs, they are highly disciplined. And neither one talks out of school. Garner has been in Kuwait with a team of about 280 specialists getting ready to go into Iraq.

The White House also has sent special U.S. presidential envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who is from Afghanistan, to Iraq with the messy burden of sorting out who should be included in the ruling Interim Iraqi Authority. Khalilzad, a solid conservative with close ties to Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, is pushing Ahmad Chalabi, who just returned to Iraq after 45 years away, as a possible successor to Saddam Hussein. The State Department is wary of Chalabi, who has publicly criticized Garner as being too slow to get his team going.

Retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Jay Garner brings field experience to his role as director of the Pentagon's new Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance for post-war Iraq. In 1991 he was commander of allied troops in northern Iraq. In a July 1991 ceremony the general turned over control of a checkpoint on the Turkey-Iraq border to Mohammed Shafik Saadullah, a Kurdish guerilla leader. (Burhan Ozbilici, Associated Press)

Another staunch conservative, assisting Garner from Washington, is Douglas Feith, 49, undersecretary of defense for policy, who is putting together the bureaucratic framework for rebuilding Iraq. A policy wonk who cut his teeth in the Reagan administration, Feith hangs out with a Pentagon faction that has advocated war with Iraq for years and wants to install exiled Iraqis as the next government. Some in the State Department worry that an exile-run regime could lead to accusations the United States is setting up a puppet government.

In some ways Feith is an odd choice for any effort involving an Arab country because of his strong pro-Israel sympathies and fierce disregard for the Palestinian Liberation Organization.

Discussing postwar Iraq, Feith says the only real role he sees for the United Nations is to provide humanitarian aid, help with refugees, if any, and food. And the International Atomic Energy Association might be called on to dismantle weapons of mass destruction, he said, ruling out most other international help.

Serving as a counterbalance to Feith is Alan Larson, assistant secretary of state for economic, business and agricultural affairs. He says one of his concerns is making sure the interim authority the United States intends to set up in Iraq will "draw from all of the religious and ethnic groups, including Iraqis that are inside Iraq now as well as those that are outside Iraq."

Larson also foresees a stronger U.N. role in post-war Iraq than many at the Pentagon or even the White House. In addition to providing food, medicine and other humanitarian supplies, he said, the United Nations can coordinate international contributions for Iraq and provide "help forthe process of forming the Iraqi interim authority."

On the other hand, Larson is not sympathetic to any government that might want to come in and simply help manage American spending in Iraq. The real problem, he said, is that the needs of the Iraqi people have been virtually ignored for the past 23 years, and what the coalition needs is for cooperating countries to provide resources to help the Iraqi people.

U.S. Lt. Gen. John Abizaid arrives at the Central Command Centre at Camp As Sayliah, in Doha, Qatar, yesterday, to hold a background briefing for journalists. (Richard Lewis, Associated Press)

Garner will work closely with Lt. Gen. John Abizaid, deputy commander of Central Command, who reports to Franks. Abizaid, 51, a Lebanese-American, speaks fluent Arabic and worked with Garner in 1991 in northern Iraq. He also has been in Bosnia and Grenada.

Abizaid is media savvy, a quick study, beloved by those in his command and a man of strong opinions. When al-Jazeera, the Arabic TV network, ran footage of U.S. prisoners of war, Abizaid said at a U.S. Central Command briefing that it was "disgusting" and an "absolutely unacceptable" step by al-Jazeera.

Another retired general, F.J. "Buck" Walters, 62, already is in Iraq with a group of about 20 Americans charged with setting up bases at Basra and Umm Qasr for Garner to oversee. He is in charge of southern Iraq. Retired Gen. Bruce Moore has just been put in charge of northern Iraq.

In charge of Baghdad and central Iraq for Garner will be one of the few women involved, former ambassador Barbara Bodine, 55. Famous for having withstood the three-months' siege of the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait in 1990 when Iraqi soldiers invaded, she has a reputation as a consummate Foreign Service Office professional. She speaks Chinese and Arabic and has served not only in Iraq and Kuwait but in Yemen, where she was ambassador.


Ann McFeatters can be reached at amcfeatters@nationalpress.com or 1-202-662-7071.

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