The report also cites former US secretary of defense Leon Panetta as saying that the 2011 withdrawal of US troops from Iraq weakened Washington’s influence in Baghdad. Panetta left office when former US senator Chuck Hagel took over the defense job last week. Washington is eyeing a similar military drawdown next year in Afghanistan, where US taxpayers have spent US$90 billion so far on rebuilding projects.
The Afghanistan effort risks falling into the same problems that mired Iraq if oversight is not coordinated better. In Iraq, officials were too eager to build in the middle of a civil war and too often raced ahead without solid plans or back-up plans, the report concluded.
Most of the work was done in piecemeal fashion, as no single government agency had responsibility for all of the money spent. The US Department of State, for example, was supposed to oversee reconstruction strategy starting in 2004, but controlled only about 10 percent of the money at stake. The vast majority of the projects — 75 percent — were paid for by the US Department of Defense.