Mon, Dec 15, 2008 - Page 1 News List

Report says US-led rebuilding efforts in Iraq are a failure

AGENCIES , WASHINGTON AND BALAD, IRAQ

An unpublished US government report says US-led efforts to rebuild Iraq were crippled by bureaucratic turf wars, violence and ignorance of the basic elements of Iraqi society, resulting in a US$100 billion failure, the New York Times reported on its Web site late on Saturday.

The newspaper said it had gotten hold of a copy of the 513-page federal history of the reconstruction effort that is circulating in Washington in draft form among a tight circle of technical reviewers, policy experts and senior officials.

The document has former secretary of state Colin Powell complaining that after the 2003 invasion, the Defense Department “kept inventing numbers of Iraqi security forces — the number would jump 20,000 a week! We now have 80,000, we now have 100,000, we now have 120,000.”

The report concludes that the US government has in place neither the policies nor the organizational structure that would be needed to undertake the largest reconstruction program since the Marshall Plan.

The document says the rebuilding effort never did much more than restore what was destroyed during the invasion and the pervasive looting that followed, the Times said.

By the middle of this year, US$117 billion had been spent on the reconstruction of Iraq, including about US$50 billion in US taxpayer money, the report said.

At one point, an official at the US Agency for International Development was given four hours to determine the combined length of Iraqi roads that needed to be repaired and reopened, the newspaper reported.

The official searched through the agency’s reference library, and his estimate went directly into a master plan.

Money for many of the local reconstruction projects was divided up by a spoils system controlled by neighborhood politicians and tribal chiefs, the report said.

“Our district council chairman has become the Tony Soprano of Rasheed, in terms of controlling resources,” the paper quoted one US embassy official in Baghdad as saying.

“You will use my contractor or the work will not get done.’”

Meanwhile, the top US commander in Iraq said on Saturday that some US troops may remain in Iraqi cities after next June, even though a US-Iraq security pact calls for the withdrawal of US combat forces from urban areas by then.

US Army General Ray Odierno said troops operating alongside Iraqi forces out of shared urban bases could remain because the US military believed they were essentially supporting Iraqi forces rather than serving as combat troops.

“We believe that’s part of our transition teams ... in the Joint Security Stations,” Odierno told reporters traveling with visiting US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates at a US military base in Balad, northwest of Baghdad. “We believe we should still be inside of those after the summer.”

Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell told reporters on Gates’ plane as he flew back to Washington that “the vast majority of US forces garrisoned in Iraqi cities will be gone from those cities” by the end of June.

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