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Iraq Reconstruction Effort Cost 719 Lives, Audit Finds

At least 719 military personnel, civilian contractors, Iraqis and third-country nationals died in Iraq over seven years performing U.S. reconstruction and stability operations, according to the first audit of its kind.

The dead include 264 of the 4,409 U.S. troops who died in Iraq from May 1, 2003, through August 30, 2010, according to the audit released today by Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction.

The audit represents the first time a U.S. agency has attempted to tally the deaths associated with spending about $60 billion in congressionally appropriated reconstruction and stabilization funds.

Nothing was safe or “soft” about reconstruction missions, according to the report. “The human losses suffered in Iraq and outlined in this report underscore the point that when such operations are conducted in combat zones, they are dangerous for everyone involved,” the report said.

The deaths occurred during U.S. efforts to rebuild Iraq’s infrastructure, train police and security forces and restructure Iraq’s government institutions.

“The actual number of deaths related to reconstruction or stabilization activities is certainly higher than 719,” according to the report. “For several reasons, an exact calculation is not possible,” the report said, noting that no agency managed a central database for these categories of casualties.

‘Very Dangerous’

Of the 719 deaths, 318 were Americans, including military and federal civilian personnel and contractors; 271 were Iraqis; and the remainder were from third countries or of unknown nationality, according to the report.

Police training “proved very dangerous,” accounting for 20 percent of the deaths, according to the report.

Bowen has warned repeatedly that billions of dollars in Iraq reconstruction projects may be wasted as the U.S. transfers them to the Iraqi government in the aftermath of the U.S. pullout last year.

“There remains a vulnerability that thousands of projects” completed with billions of dollars in U.S. reconstruction funds “will not be sustained and thus fail to meet their intended purposes,” Bowen said June 29 in congressional testimony.

Bowen first warned of a “sustainment gap” in 2007, saying that the Iraqi government wasn’t capable of performing long-term operation and maintenance of projects funded by U.S. taxpayers. Today “it remains unclear whether” the State Department “will engage in any further follow-up,” Bowen said.

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