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A decade and $60 billion later what does the U.S. have to show for the reconstruction efforts in Iraq? That's the question being answered by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction in his final report to Congress.
The report by Stuart Bowen was based upon audits and inspections, as well as interviews with Iraqi and U.S. officials and politicians. Here's the crux of what happened to that money, according to the report:
"The general belief across each group is that the relief and reconstruction program 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 stabilization and reconstruction operations."
Or as The Associated Press puts it: "Since the invasion a decade ago this month, the U.S. has spent too much money in Iraq for too few results."
The report said that several broad themes emerged in the interviews with Iraqi officials, including Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and former Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Chalabi. Here's what the Iraqis said:
1. The United States failed to consult sufficiently with Iraqi authorities when planning the reconstruction program.
2. Corruption and poor security fundamentally impeded progress throughout the program.
3. The overall rebuilding effort had limited positive effects.
The war in Iraq cost about $800 billion, and Wednesday's report from Bowen could portend what lies ahead for the U.S. in Afghanistan where it is also engaged in reconstruction, and has spent $90 billion.
Sen. Bob Corker, the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement that Bowen's final report "demonstrates the need for a top-to-bottom review of the State Department and U.S. foreign assistance programs to ensure taxpayer dollars are used to advance U.S. interests."