US Spent Too Much and Achieved Too Little in Iraq: Report

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The United States’ rebuilding effort has achieved little despite $60 billion spent in a vast reconstruction effort in Iraq since the 2003 invasion, said an auditor’s report published on Wednesday.

The ambitious plan to transform the country after the fall of Saddam Hussein has been marked by half-finished projects and crushed expectations, according to the final report of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, Stuart Bowen.

In his 171-page report titled Learning from Iraq, Bowen said U.S. taxpayers lost at least $9 billion that was set aside to rebuild Iraq, approximately a 15 percent loss from allocated funds, as poor planning and sloppy oversight allowed waste and corruption to taint the nine-year rebuilding effort.

 “This is a reasonable estimate,” Bowen said in an interview. “Waste and fraud at the levels we saw are a symptom of a failure to have a structure in place to effectively plan for stabilisation and reconstruction operations, execute such operations and be held accountable for them.”

The aid effort, Bowen added, was plagued by in-fighting among U.S. agencies and an improvised "adhocracy" approach, with no one clearly in charge of the massive $60 billion investment that was supposed to put Iraq on a stable footing.

"Management and funding gaps caused hundreds of projects to fall short of promised results, leaving a legacy of bitter dissatisfaction among many Iraqis," said the report to Congress.

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The report was based on hundreds of audits and inspections across Iraq, as well as dozens of interviews with Iraqi and American officials and politicians.


In one particular interview, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki testified that “there was misspending of money.”

"The general belief across each group is that the relief and reconstruction programme should have accomplished more, that too much was wasted, and that the lessons derived from the Iraq reconstruction experience should drive improvements to the U.S. approach to stabilisation and reconstruction operations," Bowen reported.

Bowen’s findings may rekindle the debate about the origins and results of the Iraq war as the 10th anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion approaches later this month.

Asked whether the report provides ammunition for critics of the Iraq invasion, Bowen said that wasn’t its intention. The reconstruction effort “was a large waste, but also had a positive impact,” he said.

“If we had better controls and better planning, better oversight, better quality assurance, better quality control all in place, we would have wasted less,” he said. “But did we achieve important things? Yes.”

The one bright spot, the report said, was the $20.2 billion the United States spent to train and equip Iraqi security forces, which have managed to keep Iraq relatively stable despite rising political tensions and sectarian violence.

Wednesday’s report came as a warning to lawmakers who will soon be confronted with approving additional funding to Afghanistan after the U.S. withdraws most of its forces by the end of 2014. The United States has spent about $90 billion on reconstruction in Afghanistan over the course of its 12-year military campaign.

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