“With all the money the U.S. spent, you can go into any city in Iraq and you cannot find one building or project” that stands as a testament to America’s investment, Iraq’s acting minister of the interior, Adnan al-Asadi, told the inspector general. “You can fly in a helicopter around Baghdad and other cities, but you cannot point a finger to a single project that was built and completed by the United States.”…

Even before the report’s findings, the conventional view was that U.S. officials took on too much, sought insufficient Iraqi input and planned for a long-lasting U.S. military presence that never materialized. The lessons are pertinent to the Afghan war, the only American reconstruction effort with a higher price tag; U.S. officials there have begun to scale down unsustainable reconstruction projects.

In an interview with Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said that he was grateful for America’s investment in Iraq. But Maliki lamented that the billions in aid “could have brought great change to Iraq” if it had been managed better. The Americans, the prime minister said, were at times overly eager to spend their budget. In one case, he said, the U.S. government insisted on spending $70,000 on a school project even though the principal wanted only $10,000…

Americans interviewed for the report acknowledged the lack of coordination. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), a critic of Iraq war policy, said that interagency cooperation was an “utter, abject failure” and that government divisions worked at cross-purposes, forming a “circular firing squad.”