One decade after the US invaded Iraq, the reconstruction efforthas been largely deemed a failure. In his final report to Congress,a 171-page assessment titled “Learning from Iraq”, SpecialInspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen concludedthat the costs of the war far surpassed the results.“You think if you throw money at a problem, you can fix it.It was just not strategic thinking,” Kurdish governmentofficial Qubad Talabani, son of Iraqi president Jalal Talabani,told auditors of the report.“You can fly in a helicopter around Baghdad or other cities,but you cannot point a finger at a single project that was builtand completed by the United States,” Iraq’s acting interiorminister told Bowen, who said that dumping so much money into awarzone simply created a “triangle of political patronage” thatinstigated further corruption.Bowen interviewed numerous American and Iraqi officials, many ofwhom criticized the US for taking on too many large projectswithout consulting Iraqis. When American troops withdrew, many ofthese projects were largely abandoned and Iraq continues to look asbroken as before.Additionally, Americans “wore out [their] welcome” byplanning to “do it all and do it our way” – all whilewasting taxpayer dollars, Deputy Secretary of State William J.Burns told the inspector general.The US has spent more than $60 billion in reconstruction grants,which comes out to about $15 million for each day of the conflict.A $2.4 billion fund set up by Congress to rebuild Iraq’s water andelectricity systems and to provide food, healthcare and governancewas largely wasted. President George W. Bush asked for $20 billionmore just a few months after the March 2003 invasion to accomplishthese goals.Abandoned projects include a 3,6000-bed prison that cost $40million but was never finished or used and a $108 millionwastewater treatment center that still remains unfinished. The USalso spent millions repairing infrastructure they blew up,including a $75 million pipeline and a $29 million bridge innorth-central Iraq. Contractors were also found to have overchargedthe US government for supplies, with one contractor charging thePentagon $900 for a $7 control switch.“Waste and fraud at the levels we saw are a symptom of afailure to have a structure in place to effectively plan forstabilization and reconstruction operations, execute suchoperations and be held accountable for them,” Bowen said in aninterview with Business Week.The failures in Iraq have raised concern over the future ofAfghanistan after the 2014 withdrawal of US troops. The USgovernment has spent $90 billion on reconstruction projects inAfghanistan over the course of 12 years, which US officials areafraid could go to waste if oversight isn’t coordinated better.Ten years after the American invasion of Iraq, the countryremains impoverished and plagued by near-daily deadly bombings. Fewpeople have access to electricity and clean water, and someprojects that the US spent millions on have been reduced to nothingbut rubble.“If we had better controls and better planning, betteroversight, better quality assurance, better quality control all inplace, we would have wasted less – for sure. There is no doubtabout that,” Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki toldBowen.
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