Beginning in 2003, diverse and significant actors, both domestic and international, engaged in reconstruction activities in Iraq, and the total budget committed to Iraq's reconstruction was unprecedented among postconflict operations undertaken by the international community. Between 2003 and 2014, more than US$220 billion was spent on reconstruction efforts following the United States-led invasion and overthrow of the Saddam regime. Despite the huge amount of money spent and extensive project and program implementation, the reconstruction of Iraq is viewed largely in a negative light by the international community and the Iraqi people. More recently, after years of fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as Daesh, the international community and the Iraqi government must again begin planning for a new wave of reconstruction in which the same mistakes must not be repeated. The Iraqi reconstruction experience after 2003 offers few successes and many failures from which the international community must learn.
The objective of this report is to draw out lessons and provide recommendations for future reconstruction activities by examining the reconstruction process before the emergence of Daesh. The question of what went wrong in Iraq has been the topic of many books, articles, and academic papers. Most analyses address U.S. policies, military intervention, and Iraqi politics, and available reviews of the reconstruction process are often limited to each donor's operation. This research is an effort to review the reconstruction of Iraq more broadly.