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Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance

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The Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA)

Statement by Douglas J. Feith, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, February 11, 2003: [[1]

"To prepare for all this (the coordinated, balanced progress of economic and security reconstruction in a post-conflict Iraq), the President (George Walker Bush) directed on January 20 the creation of a post-war planning office. Although located within the Policy organization in the Department of Defense, this office is staffed by officials detailed from departments and agencies throughout the government. Its job is detailed planning and implementation. The intention is not to theorize but to do practical work - to prepare for action on the ground, if and when the time comes for such work. In the event of war, most of the people in the office will deploy to Iraq. We have named it the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance and we describe it as an 'expeditionary' office.

"The Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance is charged with establishing links with the United Nations specialized agencies and with non-governmental organizations that will play a role in post-war Iraq. It will reach out also to the counterpart offices in the governments of coalition countries, and, in coordination with the President's Special Envoy to the Free Iraqis, to the various Free Iraqi groups.

"The immediate responsibility for administering post-war Iraq will fall upon the Commander of the U.S. Central Command, as the commander of the U.S. and coalition forces in the field. The purpose of the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance is to develop the detailed plans that he and his subordinates will draw on in meeting these responsibilities.

"There are three substantive operations within the Office, each under a civilian coordinator: Humanitarian Relief, Reconstruction, and Civil Administration. A fourth coordinator is responsible for communications, logistics and budgetary support. These operations are under the overall leadership of Jay Garner, a retired Lieutenant General who held a senior military position in the 1991 humanitarian relief operation in northern Iraq. He is responsible for organizing and integrating the work of the three substantive operations and ensuring that the office can travel to the region when necessary and plug in smoothly to CENTCOM's operations. His staff consists of representatives from the Departments of State, Defense, Justice, Treasury, Energy, and Agriculture, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Office of Management and Budget."

Excerpt of Interview with Douglas Jay Feith, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, by Washington Post, February 21, 2003.

"The thing that is important to stress is that the work, the substance of the work that is now generally within this operation has been going on for months, long before this office was created. Part of the reason this office was created is that there was a lot of work being done on the State Department future of Iraq committees, the Elliott Abrams/Robin Cleveland-chaired reconstruction efforts, humanitarian relief efforts and all that. It became clear at some point that number one, you've got to integrate this stuff. Number two, you're going to have to start pulling stuff together to make sure that you're not overlapping, to make sure that you're not conflicting. And number three, and most importantly, you've got to make sure that all of the stuff which was all basically briefings and papers can become something real on the ground, which means those people have to deploy to the country when the time comes and implement their plans. But it was that that motivated the creation of the office.

"Then the idea was not that Jay Garner, coming in on January 20th to create the office, is all of a sudden going to become the substantive boss of all of this work. That's how the thing got put together.

"So on the issue of the civil administration, the coordinator is going to be responsible for pulling together all of the work that has been done by the White House, the State Department, DoD, on thinking through these governance issues, and how do you set things up so that the foundation can be laid for the kind of government that the President has in mind, broad-based, representative government building on democratic institutions and the like. A government that will be humane to its own people and not a threat to its neighbors, not have WMD [weapons of mass destruction], not support terrorism, all those kinds of things that we've laid out as principles. He is laying the foundation for that, and moving as quickly as possible to a situation where the Iraqis can govern themselves. We're not looking to govern the country."


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Ensuing Developments:

  • 1 Apr. 2003: "Decisions on the government's composition appear to be entirely in US hands, particularly those of Paul Dundes Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defence. This has annoyed Gen Garner, who is officially in charge but who, according to sources close to the planning of the government has had to accept a number of controversial Iraqis in advisory roles."
  • 2 Apr. 2003: "In an effort to ensure the Pentagon controls every aspect of reconstructing Iraq and forming a new government, the US Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld, has rejected a team of postwar administrators proposed by the State Department."
  • 9 Apr. 2003: Six current and former US diplomats, headed by former general Jay Garner, are either on their way to Iraq or will be shortly: John Limbert, current US ambassador to Mauritania; Robin Raphel, former US envoy to Tunisia; David Dunford, former US ambassador to Oman; Clint Williamson, who had been seconded to work on trans-national crime issues at the National Security Council; Skip Burkle, an official with the US Agency for International Development; and Robert Gifford, a security expert.
  • reported 17 Apr. 2003: "The much-trumpeted opposition meeting in Nasiriya, which was attended by both Garner and White House envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, adjourned for 10 days on its opening day amid many questions about its purpose and place in America's post-war plans for Iraq. A wide range of Shia groups boycotted the meeting and thousands of Shias demonstrated peacefully against it because of its American sponsorship.", Julie Flint, IWPR