Kuwait: Kuwait on Monday opened a week of conferences seeking aid for rebuilding Iraq after the onslaught of the Islamic State group, seeking tens of billions of dollars for a nation only a generation ago that invaded it.
Authorities estimate Iraq needs $88.2 billion to restore a country smashed after the Sunni extremists seized the country’s second-largest city of Mosul and a mass of territory in June 2014.
“We finished one battle but we are engaged now with a war for reconstruction,” said Mustafa al-Hiti, the head of Iraq’s reconstruction fund for areas affected by terrorist operations.
Among the hardest-hit areas is Mosul, which Iraqi forces, aided by Iranian-backed Shiite militias and a U.S.-led coalition, recaptured in July 2017. Their victory came at a steep cost for Mosul, as coalition airstrikes and extremist suicide car bombs destroyed homes and government buildings.
Of the money needed, Iraqi officials estimate $17 billion alone needs to go toward rebuilding homes, the biggest single line item offered Monday on the first day of meetings. The United Nations estimates 40,000 homes need to be rebuilt in Mosul alone.
“The majority of the damage was to western Mosul as it went through one of the worst and fiercest battles in history,” said Nofal al-Akoub, the governor of Iraq’s Nineveh province. It “led to the total destruction of its infrastructure.”
Al-Akoub said $42 billion was needed for his province alone, as it is home to Mosul. Iraq needs some $20 billion now to begin its reconstruction, al-Hiti said.
The war against the Islamic State group displaced more than 5 million people. Only half have returned to their hometowns in Iraq.
President Donald Trump himself on Monday tweeted that America was “so stupidly spending $7 trillion in the Middle East, it is now time to start investing in OUR country.” The U.S. has no plans to make any new pledges at this week’s conferences. Even in Kuwait, some social media users questioned why more wasn’t being done in their own country.
Billions of dollars poured into Iraq after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein, with what feels now like little visible effect.
The U.S. alone spent $60 billion over nine years some $15 million a day to rebuild Iraq. Around $25 billion went to Iraq’s military, which disintegrated during the lightning 2014 offensive of the Islamic State group, which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq. U.S. government auditors also found massive waste and corruption, fueling suspicions of Western politicians like Trump who want to scale back foreign aid.
Meanwhile, the Middle East as a whole, especially countries like Kuwait whose deep pockets rely on oil production, have taken a hit in recent years as energy prices crashed and only recently began regaining ground.