Panetta: Troop Withdrawal Left Little US Influence in Iraq

Wednesday, 06 Mar 2013 09:29 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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The Obama administration's inability to complete an agreement for a military presence in Iraq after 2011 has hindered U.S. political influence in that country, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says in a report to be released on Wednesday.

The report by Stuart W. Bowen Jr., special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, also contains some criticism from American officials suggesting that too many large projects were taken on without sufficient consultation with the Iraqis about what was needed, reports The New York Times. As a result, Bowen concludes that at least $8 billion of some $60 billion in reconstruction aid was wasted.

Bowen's report covers reconstruction efforts over eight years. Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns, whose own observations were included in the report, told Bowen that the United States had overreached in Iraq by planning to “do it all and do it our way,” only to discover the Americans quickly “wore out our welcome.”

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That view was echoed in part by U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker, who was in Iraq from 2007 to 2009. He says in the report that Iraqi officials would often sign off on projects only because they weren't paying for them and then abandon them later on when they were transferred to Iraqi control.

Ambassador James F. Jeffrey, who served in Iraq from 2010 to 2012, also offered his view that “too much money was spent with too few results.” But he noted that U.S. efforts did help by putting thousands of Iraqis to work, improving healthcare, building the military, restoring electric power, and increasing the country's oil production.

The Times reported that Panetta was also critical of the reconstruction efforts, saying they demonstrated a “lack of thought.” But his main concern, apparently, dealt with the fact that the withdrawal of American forces in December 2011 hurt the ability of the United States to influence events in Iraq.

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