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Aug 29th, 2010

U.S. Wasted Billions in Rebuilding Iraq

Hundreds of infrastructure projects are incomplete or abandoned

Image: A worker walks through the nearly-complete wastewater treatment site in Fallujah
A worker walks through the nearly-complete waste water treatment site in Fallujah, Iraq, 40 miles west of Baghdad. The system is almost finished – at a cost of more than three times the original estimate and four years past the initial deadline. (Photo credit: Hadi Mizban / AP)

By Kim Gamel

Aug. 29, 2010


KHAN BANI SAAD, Iraq — A $40 million prison sits in the desert north of Baghdad, empty. A $165 million children’s hospital goes unused in the south. A $100 million waste water treatment system in Fallujah has cost three times more than projected, yet sewage still runs through the streets.

As the U.S. draws down in Iraq, it is leaving behind hundreds of abandoned or incomplete projects. More than $5 billion in American taxpayer funds has been wasted — more than 10 percent of the some $50 billion the U.S. has spent on reconstruction in Iraq, according to audits from a U.S. watchdog agency.

That amount is likely an underestimate, based on an analysis of more than 300 reports by auditors with the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction. And it does not take into account security costs, which have run almost 17 percent for some projects. …

Even completed projects for the most part fell far short of original goals, according to an Associated Press review of hundreds of audits and investigations and visits to several sites. And the verdict is still out on whether the program reached its goal of generating Iraqi good will toward the United States instead of the insurgents.

Col. Jon Christensen, who took over as commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Gulf Region District this summer, said the federal agency has completed more than 4,800 projects and is rushing to finish 233 more. Some 595 projects have been terminated, mostly for security reasons. …

The reconstruction program in Iraq has been troubled since its birth shortly after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. The U.S. was forced to scale back many projects even as they spiked in cost, sometimes to more than double or triple initial projections.

As part of the so-called surge strategy, the military in 2007 shifted its focus to protecting Iraqis and winning their trust. American soldiers found themselves hiring contractors to paint schools, refurbish pools and oversee neighborhood water distribution centers. The $3.6 billion Commander’s Emergency Response Program provided military units with ready cash for projects, and paid for Sunni fighters who agreed to turn against al-Qaida in Iraq for a monthly salary.

But sometimes civilian and military reconstruction efforts were poorly coordinated and overlapped. …

In some cases, Iraqi ministries have refused to take on the responsibility for U.S.-funded programs, forcing the Americans to leave abandoned buildings littering the landscape. …

Waste also came from trying to run projects while literally under fire.

The Americans committed to rebuilding the former Sunni insurgent stronghold of Fallujah after it was destroyed in major offensives in 2004. The U.S. awarded an initial contract for a new waste water treatment system to FluorAMEC of Greenville, S.C. — just three months after four American private security contractors were savagely attacked. The charred and mutilated remains of two of them were strung from a bridge in the city. …

The Fallujah waste water treatment system is nearly complete — four years past the deadline, at a cost of more than three times the original $32.5 million estimate. It has been scaled back to serve just a third of the population, and Iraqi officials said it still lacks connections to houses and a pipe to join neighborhood tanks up with the treatment plant.

Desperate residents, meanwhile, have begun dumping their sewage in the tanks, causing foul odors and running the risk of seepage, according to the head of Fallujah’s municipal council, Sheik Hameed Ahmed Hashim. …

Full story


Related reports on this site

Iraq Projects Down the Tubes (November 21, 2009)

Image: Water treatment plant in Baghdad's Sadr City
An Iraqi worker at a new water treatment plant in Baghdad’s Sadr City. The $65 million plant is meant to provide water for 200,000 people — just a tenth of the population of the vast slum on Baghdad’s eastern ouskirts. (Photo credit: Erik De Castro / Reuters)

Iraqi Neglect Costs U.S. Taxpayers (April 29, 2009)

Image: Bomb attack scene
Iraqi soldiers secure the site of a roadside bomb attack in Basra, southern Iraq, April 20, 2009. (Photo credit: Haider Al-Assadee / EPA)

Iraq Rebuilding ‘$100B failure’ (December 14, 2008)

Students used water from a faucet at the Khulafa al-Rashideen school in Baghdad in October 2008. Access to potable water plummeted after the 2003 invasion. (Photo credit: Max Becherer / Polaris, for The New York Times)

Billions Lost on Reconstruction Projects in Iraq (July 28, 2008)

Empty prison in Iraq a $40M ‘failure’ (Associated Press, July 28, 2008) — In this undated photograph released by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, the Khan Bani Saad Correctional Facility, about 12 miles northeast of Baghdad, is seen with unused building materials nearby. The site is a chronicle of U.S. government waste, misguided planning, and construction shortcuts costing $40 million … Full story


FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — August 29, 2009

Obama War Strategy Setback

An Afghan man wounded by Tuesday’s car bomb explosions is seen on a bed at a hospital in Kandahar, south of Kabul, Afghanistan, on Thursday, Aug. 27, 2009. (Photo credit: Allauddin Khan / AP)

One year ago today, I reported that Kandahar, Afghanistan showed signs of slipping back under Taliban control as August 2009 became the deadliest month of the eight-year war for U.S. troops in Afghanistan — a setback for President Barack Obama’s war strategy.


FROM THE ARCHIVES: Two Years Ago — August 29, 2008

Iran’s Mahmoud Amadinejad welcomes Iraq’s Nouri al-Maliki.

On the Campaign Trail: Day 46

Two years ago today, on the 46th day of my 2008 campaign against U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann in Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District, in line with my campaign focus on national security issues, I addressed links between the Iraqi government and Iran and the role of the Iraq war in empowering Iran.

11 Responses to “Colossal Taxpayer Waste in Iraq”
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  11. The Immelman Turn » Blog Archive » Senseless Waste of U.S. Taxpayer Dollars in Iraq and Afghanistan Says:

    […] The U.S. began building a 3,600-bed prison in 2004 but abandoned the project after three years to flee a surge in violence. The half-completed Khan Bani Sa’ad Correctional Facility cost American taxpayers $40 million but sits in rubble, and Iraqi Justice Ministry officials say they have no plans to ever finish or use it. […]

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