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U.S. Lowers Sights On What Can Be Achieved in Iraq
Pressed by the cost of fighting an escalating insurgency, U.S. expectations for rebuilding Iraq -- and its $20 billion investment -- have fallen the farthest, current and former officials say.
Pentagon officials originally envisioned Iraq's oil revenue paying many post-invasion expenses. But Iraq, ranked among world leaders behind Saudi Arabia in proven oil reserves, is incapable of producing enough refined fuel amid a car-buying boom that has put an estimated 1 million more vehicles on the road after the invasion. Lines for subsidized cheap gas stretch for miles every day in Baghdad.
Oil production is estimated at 2.22 million barrels a day, short of the goal of 2.5 million. Iraq's pre-war high was 2.67 million barrels a day.
The United States had high hopes of quick, big-budget fixes for the electrical power system that would show Iraqis tangible benefits from the ouster of Hussein. But inadequate training for Iraqi staff, regional rivalries restricting the power flow to Baghdad, inadequate fuel for electrical generators and attacks on the infrastructure have contributed to the worst summer of electrical shortages in the capital.
Water is also a "tough, tough" situation in a desert country, said a U.S. official in Baghdad familiar with reconstruction issues. Pumping stations depend on electricity, and engineers now say the system has hundreds of thousands of leaks.
"The most thoroughly dashed expectation was the ability to build a robust self-sustaining economy. We're nowhere near that. State industries, electricity are all below what they were before we got there," said Wayne White, former head of the State Department's Iraq intelligence team who is now at the Middle East Institute. "The administration says Saddam ran down the country. But most damage was from looting [after the invasion], which took down state industries, large private manufacturing, the national electric" system.
Ironically, White said, the initial ambitions may have complicated the U.S. mission: "In order to get out earlier, expectations are going to have to be lower, even much lower. The higher your expectation, the longer you have to stay. Getting out is going to be a more important consideration than the original goals were. They were unrealistic."
Knickmeyer reported from Baghdad.