U.S. Wasted $3-5 billion in Iraq Reconstruction…Next Stop—Afghanistan

Sunday, March 29, 2009
Unfinshed Khan Bani Saad prison

If the Obama administration wants the US mission in Afghanistan not to become the money pit Iraq has been, then it needs to start reading. The special inspector for Iraq reconstruction has released a nearly 400-page report on what the United States did right, and what it did wrong, in trying to rebuild Iraq after the 2003 invasion—and there’s plenty to take notice of for those trying to put Afghanistan back together 7 ½ years after the intitial U.S. invasion of that country.

During a hearing on Capitol Hill, Stuart Bowen, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR), warned Washington officials that they risk repeating the same mistakes in Afghanistan that led to $3-5 billion being wasted in Iraq on reconstruction out of $50 billion appropriated by Congress. The SIGIR report calls attention to “perhaps the single greatest project failure in the U.S. reconstruction program”: the $40 million Khan Bani Saad prison built in Iraq’s Diyala Province by Parsons Delaware and turned over to the Iraqi government only half finished. Parsons received a $900 million contract in 2004 to restore Iraq’s infrastructure, but, in part because of lack of security, the company managed to complete only 18 of 53 construction projects.
Bowen said contractors working in Afghanistan have told him they’ve witnessed “significant waste” taking place there, and that “the lessons learned from Iraq are waiting to be applied effectively in Afghanistan.”
Overseeing contract work in Afghanistan is retired Marine Major General Arnold Fields, who warned lawmakers on the House Armed Services committee that the US military, the State Department and the Agency for International Development (USAID) need to get on the same page with respect to reconstruction efforts. One important lesson Fields noted was a “lack of participation” by Afghanis, who are not being hired or consulted in the redevelopment of their own country—something that also happened in Iraq.
-David Wallechinsky, Noel Brinkerhoff
Hard Lessons: The Iraq Reconstruction Experience (Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction) (PDF)


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