The fear of being killed or injured in insurgency
attacks has resulted in an absenteeism rate of 75 percent among Iraqi
laborers hired by the United States.
U.S. officials said that even at the height of the suicide
bombing campaign in April 2004, U.S. projects to reconstruct Iraq were not
halted. Still, they said, most Iraqi laborers refused to report to work.
"It's had an impact on how many people show up to work, and it went down
to where we were at about 25 percent of what we had been at one time, in
terms of Iraqi employees on the job," David Nash, head of the Program
Management Office of the Coalition Provisional Authority, said.
Nash said Iraqi contractors have been threatened by insurgency groups.
He said the threat has eased over the last month and that 75 percent of
Iraqis employed for the CPA have been reporting to work. This comprised
employees out of nearly 10,000 laborers recruited.
Officials said the CPA has focused on refurbishing Iraq's electricity
network and the construction of security facilities. The security facilities
include buildings for the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps and the new military.
Nash, a retired admiral, said private security contractors continue to
play a role in protecting CPA projects in Iraq. He said contractors have
been integrated with the military and police to bolster security and ensure
"We've now integrated the security of the military and the police and
the contractors into a net that we can take advantage
of everybody because I'm not only concerned about security for our people
from the enemy, but I also want to make sure that we're totally coordinated
so we don't have any friendly fire incidences," Nash said.
But industry sources said U.S. contractors have been leaving Baghdad
over the last few weeks because of the fear of Sunni or Shi'ite attack. The
sources said the flight of the contractors raises doubts over whether the
billions of dollars allocated for Iraqi reconstruction will be spent. About
15 percent of the funds were meant for security.
"Security is quickly becoming the X-factor that is impeding and
complicating the reconstruction effort," Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont
Democrat, said in a statement. "Many people predicted these problems back
when the [Bush] administration made its request for far more money than it
could effectively spend. The reality on the ground is illustrative of the
many needless mistakes that have created the mess we face today."