Pauline Jelinek / Associated Press – 2009-01-29 22:45:10
WASHINGTON (January 30, 2009) — The often chaotic and wasteful $125 billion Iraq rebuilding effort will face new trouble and uncertainty this year despite the decline in violence there, a new audit report says.
A separate report on Afghanistan said there is no coherent strategy for that country’s $32 billion reconstruction campaign.
In Iraq, the nation’s shifting power base and finances will force fundamental changes in the now nearly six-year-old rebuilding effort, as will questions about security when the US draws combat forces out of Iraqi cities this summer, said the report being released Friday by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen.
A new agreement governing American presence in Iraq means US contractors will no longer have immunity from Iraqi laws. And some could decide to quit the country when the government finishes writing new rules on contractor licensing, taxes, registration of their firearms and so on, the report said.
Also, the big drop in global oil prices over the past six months has forced Iraqis to trim their budget and could have “severe consequences for Iraq reconstruction, fundamentally altering government of Iraq plans to fund large-scale capital improvement projects” themselves, the report said.
The reconstruction effort in Iraq totals $125 billion, including US funding of $51 billion; Iraqi funding of about $58 billion and international funding of $17 billion, not all of which has been spent.
For Afghanistan, the United States has appropriated but not fully spent $32 billion for humanitarian aid and reconstruction while other nations have contributed an additional $25.3 billion, said a separate report released late Thursday by the office of Arnold Fields, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.
Congress recently approved creation of the new SIGAR audit office, which mirrors the one set up to oversee Iraq reconstruction spending – an office that has routinely found glaring examples of fraud and waste in a wide range of projects to provide police stations, schools, improve basic services such as electricity and water and programs to teach Iraq skills needed for better governance.
Fields has been just getting his work under way in recent months. “I fear there are major weaknesses in strategy,” he said in only his second quarterly report.
Although he said his agency has not yet done an in-depth review, he found in recent trips to Afghanistan that “a broad consensus … that reconstruction efforts are fragmented and that existing strategies lack coherence.” He said government officials there want a greater say in the building plan.
Retired Marine Maj. Gen. Fields said he has finished setting up a permanent office in Kabul and has 30 employees at three Afghan locations.
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