Rice announces new Iraq reconstruction coordinator

State Department Secretary Condoleezza Rice on Thursday announced that Timothy Carney, a retired Foreign Service officer with extensive conflict experience, has been named to serve as the coordinator for Iraq reconstruction that President Bush called for in a speech Wednesday night.

Bush also said in his address on Iraq strategy that the United States would double the number of provincial reconstruction teams that provide joint military and civilian assistance to community projects. Rice said Thursday morning that the number of such teams would be increased from 10 to "at least 18."

But little information was immediately available on Bush's statement that "we need to examine ways to mobilize talented American civilians to deploy overseas." The president linked that issue to a working group he said was proposed by Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., and others to work across the aisle on issues related to the administration's war on terror.

At a morning briefing, Rice said Carney would take on the new role of coordinator for Iraq transitional assistance. He gained substantial experience in conflict zones during 32 years of service with the State Department. He completed tours of duty in Vietnam and Cambodia during the Indochina War, and in apartheid-era South Africa, according to an official biography.

More recently, before his retirement in 1999, Carney was the ambassador to Sudan and to Haiti. In 2003, he worked in Iraq with the Ministry of Industry and Minerals, and he has lectured Army and National Guard units preparing for deployment.

State Department spokeswoman Nancy Beck said no further information was available Thursday on Carney's role, including how he will oversee projects headed by various agencies including the departments of State and Defense and the U.S. Agency for International Development or how he will coordinate with other groups with reconstruction responsibilities.

Rice said Thursday that the president's commitment to increase the number of provincial reconstruction teams represents a "surge" in the administration's civilian efforts. She said the single team currently assigned to Baghdad will be joined by five more, and the team in Anbar province will be supplemented by two groups.

In October, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction released an audit of the provincial reconstruction team program that found promise in the model, though the auditors said security-related challenges hindered the teams' work.

It was not immediately apparent whether the activities of the new teams would be subject to oversight by the special IG. The original groups were partially funded by the Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund, giving SIGIR clear authority to investigate their work. The inspector general also has authority to look at most reconstruction projects funded in fiscal 2006. But because that authority does not extend to fiscal 2007, it remains to be seen whether it will be extended to include the newly announced teams.

Also on Thursday, Rice said she would recommend to Bush that the Army's strength be boosted by 65,000 soldiers over the next five years, and that 27,000 additional slots be authorized in the Marines. With increases of 7,000 troops per year for the Army and 5,000 per year for the Marine Corps, total troop levels would rise to 547,000 and 202,000, respectively, she said.

Rice did not provide further details on the president's comment on expanding the number of civilians deployed overseas. The Iraq Study Group reported that agencies have had trouble filling civilian positions with qualified candidates, and some volunteers have said their agencies were unwilling to let them go. Civilian agencies traditionally have been reluctant to consider using directed assignments, as the Defense Department does.

Earlier this week, Rice said the president would nominate Ryan Crocker, now the ambassador to Pakistan, to serve as ambassador in Iraq. Current ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad has been presented as the White House's choice for that post at the United Nations.

"Few diplomats have the kind of experience in the broader Middle East that Ryan has amassed in his three decades of service," Rice said Monday, noting his ambassadorships in Lebanon, Kuwait and Syria, as well as in Pakistan.

"Ryan Crocker … knows the language and the culture of the region, as well as the leaders and the societies that they lead," Rice said. "He will work well and effectively with the leadership of our military as he has done in Pakistan.

A nomination hearing has not yet been scheduled.

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