The decision signals the winding down of an $18.4 billion U.S. rebuilding effort in which roughly half of the money was eaten away by increased costs related to the insurgency, the development of Iraq's criminal justice system and the investigation and trial of Saddam Hussein. Only slightly under 20 percent of the $18.4 billion remains unallocated. When the last of the money is spent, other foreign donors and the fledgling Iraqi government will have to try to fix the tens of billions of dollars of work yet to be done that is needed to bring reliable electricity, water and other services to Iraq's 26 million people.
So, in other words, even though we broke it, and we refuse to leave it, we ain't gonna fix it. As for the promises of foriegn countries paying for the reconstruction of Iraq, that's just funny money. Most of the promises made have not been kept, because of the risk involved, or were primarily focused on debt relief. Most of these other countries aren't going to put their people in harm's way and take over the reconstruction effort under such circumstances.
That leaves Iraqi oil money to do the job. Iraq produced 2.6 million barrels a day before U.S. troops entered Iraq, but oil production fell sharply during last year, to a low of 1.1 million barrels per day in December, down from 1.2 million barrels a day in November and approximately 1.8 million barrels a day at the beginning of last year. It is no wonder that financial giant Barclay's recently described Iraq's oil infrastructure as "heading backwards rather than forwards."
As for the Iraqi electrical grid, it seems to be sputtering again after a few promising months. December was the worst month yet for insurgent attacks upon the Iraqi electrical infrastructure, according to Brigadier General William McCoy, head of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. November electricity production was only 3700 megawatts, essentially the same amount produced since May 2004. If it weren't for large electrical purchases from Turkey and Iran, the Iraqi power situation would be even worse. That said, just because you can buy electricity doesn't mean that you have the infrastructure to reliably deliver it.
I know a few Iraqi expatriots who, regardless of what they thought about the war, believed that the US needed to stay in Iraq specifically because the US broke their country and it needed to be rebuilt. But who is going to do the rebuilding? The French? The Germans?! The results are bound to be extremely spotty and inconsistant depending on where you are in Iraq. Power lines put up in Basra may stay up, but ones put up Baghdad are just as likely to be ripped down in the middle of the night and sold for copper, just like they were in Somalia.
So, the question needs to be asked -- why the recent, sharp decline in both the Iraqi oil and electrical infrastructure? Is it related to US military base consolidation in Iraq? Are the new Iraqi troops / police incapable of or unwilling to deal with the problem? Have the insurgents changed their tactics again... or has the insurgency simply gotten worse?