$53 Billion for Empty Buildings

The U.S. has spent $53 billion rebuilding Iraq, and officials increasingly worry that a big chunk of that money will be wasted because Iraq can't maintain its tens of thousands of new facilities—and therefore provide basic services to its citizens—once Americans leave. Over the past two years, the Iraqi government has refused or delayed the transfer of U.S.-built projects because it can't staff or maintain them, The New York Times reports. Schools, hospitals, and prisons built with American cash have been left vacant long after their completion due to the scarcity of trained workers. But even though Baghdad has often managed these facilities poorly, Washington can share some of the blame, because these projects haven't been followed up with adequate training. And thanks to declining oil prices, the Iraqi government needs $400 billion more to help fulfill pledges for rebuilding as its January elections approach. In the meantime, American reconstruction specialists continue to leave the country in large numbers, taking their expertise with them. The withdrawal of of large numbers of American forces begins next year.