U.S. Team Arrives in Iraq to Establish Postwar Base
(April 9, 2003)

New York Times
April 9, 2003

KUWAIT, April 8 -

A retired American general, F. J. Walters, and the first Americans dispatched by the Bush administration to bring democracy and aid to Iraq crossed over the northern border of Kuwait and into Iraq this morning in a small convoy of armored Suburbans.

In addition to General Walters, who is 62 and from Texas, the group of 20 included an Arabic-speaking State Department diplomat, a communications expert and a press secretary from the American military.

American officials said the group established a base in the port of Umm Qasr, just a 15-minute drive over the Kuwaiti border, essentially a toehold for what the Bush administration envisages as a postwar administration headed by another retired general, Jay Garner.

General Walters, who is known as Buck, was designated the Bush administration's "coordinator" for southern Iraq. He will eventually be based in Basra, Iraq's second city, but administration officials said the situation there was still too chaotic for the Americans to venture there today.

The date of General Garner's departure for Baghdad is still unclear. He has been in Kuwait coaching a team of more than 200 American aid experts, former military officers and diplomats in the tasks of running Iraq.

Several members of the general's team said they were unsure what President Bush meant today when he said during a joint news conference with Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain that the United Nations would play a "vital role" in Iraq. But they said they doubted that it meant a role for the United Nations beyond involvement in delivering food, construction materials and other aid.

"To the victor, the spoils, and in this case the spoils are choosing who governs," said a Washington official familiar with the postwar Iraqi planning.

Britain has sent a handful of relatively junior officials to join the Americans working under General Garner here. But it appeared that the Blair government might want more senior slots in the postwar authority, an administration official said.

The British have expressed concerns that General Garner, who reports directly to the war commander, Gen. Tommy R. Franks, will look too much like an American proconsul overseeing an American protectorate in Iraq. This perception would increase antagonisms in the Arab world and has already angered people in Britain and other European countries, the British argue.

The major posts in General Garner's organization - officially called the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance - have been filled either by the Pentagon, or after vetting by senior Pentagon officials.

Under the Garner plan, Iraq would be divided into three sectors - the south, the center and the north, with each to be headed by a coordinator. A former ambassador to Yemen, Barbara Bodine, has been designated as the coordinator for the central sector and will devote most of her time to the problems of Baghdad, General Garner has said.

General Walters took with him staff members to work on aid, civilian administration and reconstruction.

The most sensitive of these chores is establishing civilian administration, members of the Garner team have said. They envisage establishing committees in the 17 provinces of Iraq. The committees would be composed of people outside the hierarchy of the Baath Party, and would probably lead to elections and a new Iraqi government, according to plans outlined by General Garner.

There has been little communication between the United Nations aid coordinator for Iraq, Ramiro Lopes da Silva, and the Garner team, a State Department official said. Mr. da Silva, who is based in Cyprus, has not visited the Garner group in Kuwait, and members of the Garner group have not gone to Cyprus.

One of the early tasks for General Walters in southern Iraq will be to try to ensure that the distribution system set up under the United Nations "oil for food" program in recent years continues, one official said. Ensuring policing will be another important task.

General Walters, who after retiring from the Army became chief operating officer the insurance firm Eichlitz, Dennis, Wray & Westheimer of San Antonio, will also be responsible for working with what remains of the Iraqi regular army.

General Garner told Bush administration officials last month that the regular army should be used in construction to rebuild Iraq. The committees established in each province would nominate the work for the Iraqi army to do - engineering, road construction, and picking up unexploded ordnance.

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