WASHINGTON -- Ten years and $60 billion in American taxpayer funds later, Iraq is still so unstable and broken that even its leaders question whether U.S. efforts to rebuild the war-torn nation were worth the cost.
In his final report to Congress, Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen's conclusion was all too clear: Since the invasion a decade ago this month, the United States has spent too much money in Iraq for too few results.
The reconstruction effort "grew to a size much larger than was ever anticipated," Bowen told the AP in a preview of his last audit of U.S. funds spent in Iraq, to be released yesterday. "Not enough was accomplished for the size of the funds expended."
In interviews with Bowen, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said the U.S. funding "could have brought great change in Iraq" but fell short too often. "There was misspending of money," said al-Maliki, a Shia Muslim whose sect makes up about 60 percent of Iraq's population.
Iraqi Parliament Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, the country's top Sunni Muslim official, told auditors that the rebuilding efforts "had unfavorable outcomes in general."
"You think if you throw money at a problem, you can fix it," Kurdish government official Qubad Talabani, son of Iraqi president Jalal Talabani, told auditors. "It was just not strategic thinking."
The abysmal Iraq results forecast what could happen in Afghanistan, where U.S. taxpayers have so far spent $90 billion in reconstruction projects during a 12-year military campaign that, for the most part, ends in 2014.
Sen. Bob Corker, top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on Wednesday called the report's findings "appalling" but also said its lessons will be helpful for future U.S. reconstruction projects -- especially the billions of dollars yet to be spent in Afghanistan. He called for a thorough review of State Department and U.S. foreign aid programs to make sure the money is spent wisely.