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Sun 14 Dec 2008 06:56 AM

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New report slams Iraq reconstruction

US report says reconstruction doomed by bureaucratic infighting, ignorance and violence.

An unpublished federal draft report depicts the US-led reconstruction of Iraq as a $100 billion failure doomed by bureaucratic infighting, ignorance of basic elements of Iraqi society and waves of violence there, the New York Times reported in its Sunday editions.

The Pentagon issued inflated progress reports to cover up the reconstruction's failure once the effort began to lag, according to the Times, which received copies of the document from two people who had read the draft but were not authorised to comment publicly about it.

Former secretary of state Colin Powell is cited as saying, for example, that in the months after the 2003 invasion the Defense Department "kept inventing numbers of Iraqi security forces - the number would jump 20,000 a week! 'We now have 80,000, we now have 100,000, we now have 120,000.'"

Powell's contention was supported by both the former ground troops commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, and L. Paul Bremer, the civilian administrator before the Iraqi government takeover in June 2004. Powell declined to comment on his quoted remarks, the Times said.

The report, "Hard Lessons: The Iraq Reconstruction Experience," was compiled by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, led by Stuart Bowen Jr., a Republican lawyer who visits Iraq often and maintains a staff of engineers and auditors there, the newspaper said.

It was based on some 500 interviews and more than 600 audits, inspections and investigations on which Bowen's office has reported for years.

Bowen's deputy, Ginger Cruz, declined to comment to the newspaper on the substance of the history, but said it would be presented on Feb. 2 at the first hearing of the Commission on Wartime Contracting, created by Democrat-sponsored legislation.

Among the draft report's conclusions is that some five years after its largest foreign reconstruction project since the Marshall Plan following World War II, the US government still does not have the policies, technical capacity or organisational structure needed for a project even approaching this one's scale, the newspaper said.

It found that the reconstruction effort did little more than restore what had been destroyed during the US invasion and subsequent looting. And it concluded the effort had failed in part because no single agency in the US government had primary responsibility for the job.

Partisan politics also figured in, as when a Republican lobbyist working for the US occupation authority implored the Office of Management and Budget to fund $20 billion in new reconstruction money in August 2003.

"To delay getting our funds would be a political disaster for the president," wrote the lobbyist, Tom Korologos. "His election will hang for a large part on show of progress in Iraq and without the funding this year, progress will grind to a halt," the draft quoted Korologos as saying.

The Bush administration supported the request and Congress allocated the money later that year.

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