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Report Urges US to Improve Ability to Rebuild Nations After War - 2003-02-14

With the possibility of war with Iraq looming, a new report says the United States must immediately address serious gaps in its capacity to reconstruct countries after military conflicts. Without a strengthened ability for post-war recovery, the report says threats posed by failed states will continue to undermine global security.

The report issued by the Washington based Center for Strategic and International Studies says the United States must re-evaluate its policies for rebuilding countries following conflict.

The President of the Center, John Hamre, says one of the main lessons of the September 11, 2001 attacks on America is that failed states can not be ignored for national security and humanitarian reasons. "What we all are learning now is that there is a dangerous combination in this new era of weapons of mass destruction, terrorists that operate internationally, and failed states or irresponsible states that provide support to those individuals," he says. "That combination now is a very dangerous mix and that is at the core of the problem. We can not afford to ignore the fact that these failed states are an essential element for terrorism. Therefore we have to deal with those failed states."

Mr. Hamre, a former Deputy Secretary of Defense, says the United States has traditionally done a good job winning military conflicts, but in recent years has been less successful in efforts to rebuild nations into democracies with strong economies. "In all honesty we do not do it very well. Part of it is because the central part of the government that is supposed to do that, the State Department, has historically not had the resources it takes to do the job," he says. "During the past 10-years, far too many times this task was handed to the Defense Department and the Defense Department did not have the orientation to do this job."

Mr. Hamre chaired the Commission on Post-Conflict Reconstruction, which included members of the U.S. Congress, former military leaders and foreign policy analysts. The commission's report urges the Bush administration to revamp post-conflict reconstruction efforts to create what it calls a robust civilian rapid-response capacity.

It says the government should establish a center to train teams to be sent to war-torn nations, immediately following the conflict, to begin rebuilding efforts.

The report criticizes the Bush administration for what it calls an "ad hoc response in Afghanistan that displays weaknesses that could have been corrected based on lessons learned from experience over the last decade."

Gordon Sullivan is a former U.S. Army Chief of Staff who served on the commission. He says reconstructing countries after conflict is as important as winning the war. "Win the peace. That is what this study is all about. Play to win. Win the peace. It is not good enough to get in there, that is an important phase, but there is an equally as important phase and that is winning the peace and ensuring that we are helping people create viable democracies, viable, vibrant democracies in their nation states," he says.

Retired General George Joulwan is the former Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. He says it is in the best interests of the United States to improve its record on post-conflict reconstruction. "The challenge is that we want more than an absence of war. What we want to try to do is how do you not only stop the killing and the dying, but how do you develop, which is in our interest, true governments that can be reflective of the people and that is a civil-military operation," he says.

Last month President Bush ordered the creation of the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance at the Pentagon. The office is to plan and carryout rebuilding programs once a possible conflict in Iraq is over.

U.S. defense officials have estimated that if there is a war, it would probably take two-years or more for the military to transfer complete control of many ministries to Iraqi officials.