US: Iraq Rebuilding Poorly Planned, Inspector General Says

The assessment marks the first time a sitting inspector general -- in this case a former White House deputy assistant to President George W. Bush -- has formally criticized the prewar planning process. Most of the authoritative criticism to date has come
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Oct. 30 -- Plans for rebuilding postwar Iraq were ``insufficient in both scope and implementation,'' lacking ``systematic'' coordination between the State Department, White House and Pentagon, the special inspector general for Iraq said.

Pentagon officials starting in mid-2002, when planning began, ``were either unaware or chose to ignore'' State Department assessments, and drew up a plan on their own that wasn't finished until late January 2003, less than two months before the war began, said U.S. Inspector General Stuart Bowen.

``The lack of cooperation'' in identifying qualified personnel well before the invasion ``significantly hampered the early management of Iraq reconstruction,'' Bowen wrote in his quarterly accounting to Congress of the reconstruction effort.

Bowen's assessment marks the first time a sitting inspector general -- in this case a former White House deputy assistant to President George W. Bush -- has formally criticized the prewar planning process. Most of the authoritative criticism to date has come from retired military or diplomatic officers or academics who worked in the reconstruction effort.

Most earlier critiques focused on the Pentagon's failure to adequately plan for the search for weapons of mass destruction, anticipate a resilient insurgency or follow many of the reconstruction plans laid out by State Department studies.

Bowen's critique adds another dimension: the failure to adequately assemble the personnel needed to jumpstart the reconstruction and manage the U.S. money paying for it.

``The general shortage of personnel and the widespread lack of skill and experience among those goals negatively affected all facets of reconstruction assistance,'' Bowen wrote.

Pentagon Response

Pentagon spokeswoman Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel Roseanne Lynch, asked to respond to Bowen's report, said, ``The lessons learned from the experience in Iraq will be reviewed and studied in order that we may remain vigilant and better assist other nations in future post-conflict situations.''

Bowen's criticism of the reconstruction planning process occupies a small part of his quarterly report and is based on a seminar his office held in September that included government officials and academics, many of whom served in Iraq.

Bowen's assessment of the reconstruction effort to date is generally positive. Even with poor planning, State Department and Army officials in Iraq are putting in place the management systems necessary to minimize waste in the $30 billion allocated for rebuilding the Mideast nation, he wrote.

Improvements Cited

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and the U.S. Iraq Reconstruction Management Office that's disbursing most of the money ``have improved project and program management by better allocating roles and responsibilities and by improving overall program coordination,'' he stated.

Still, today's efforts were handicapped by a poor start, he said.

``The lack of meaningful planning at the outset and the eventual deterioration of the security situation -- perhaps an outcome of the lack of a strategic plan -- made it difficult to secure long-term personnel'' from other agencies, Bowen wrote.

``This weakness reflected the larger problem of a general lack of interagency coordination throughout the Iraq reconstruction,'' Bowen wrote.

Bowen noted that one seminar participant ``expressed surprise at the degree to which many federal agencies gave only `lip service''' to assignments from the White House and National Security Council and said ``this remains a problem today.''

The Pentagon's decision in February 2003 to set up an Iraq Reconstruction and Development Council of Iraqi exiles and expatriates capable of running a new government ``suffered from poor planning, poor implementation and inadequate oversight'' to the extent that the council and the objectives of the Coalition Provisional Authority, which was running the country, ``never completely meshed,'' Bowen wrote.

Bremer Criticized

In addition, Ambassador Paul Bremer, the former U.S. administrator in Iraq who helped run Iraq after the March 2003 invasion by U.S. and allied forces, ``exacerbated'' reconstruction problems when he disbanded Iraq's army and its defense ministry and pursued an ``absolutist'' policy of de- Baathification, Bowen wrote, referring to the Baath Party that ruled the country under deposed dictator Saddam Hussein.

That criticism echoes Gregory Hooker, the senior Iraq intelligence analyst for the U.S. Central Command, who in a report in May that analyzed prewar and postwar planning, said Bremer's decisions ``helped fuel the growth of armed opposition to the coalition.''

Bremer wrote in a Wall Street Journal commentary Jan. 12 of this year that the Coalition Provisional Authority, which he headed, was right to ban the top 1 percent of Baath party members from serving in the government and allowing to army to disperse in order to show Iraqis they wouldn't be repressed further by those institutions.

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