ERBIL—When Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi arrived in western Mosul to declare its liberation from the Islamic State, he was surrounded by mountains of rubble and shattered stone—all that remains of the majority of the once-great city.
Rebuilding Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, will require many years, many billions of dollars, and deep coordination between government agencies and international partners like the United Nations Development Program or the German NGO Rebuild Iraq Recruitment Program, which support various reconstruction efforts. If lessons from the past are any indication, the reconstruction will be stymied by economic troubles, corruption, mismanagement, security problems, and the sheer scale of the destruction itself.
The longer the reconstruction is delayed, the harder and costlier it will become. This will have a serious impact on the fates of millions of people, Iraq’s economy, and its future stability, and may well lay the groundwork the creation of future militant uprisings.
Destruction is nothing new for Iraq, a country whose history is marred by cyclical conflict. Neither is the mismanagement of rebuilding, part of which stems from poor choices made by foreign partners, as well as from Iraq’s institutional corruption, a problem even before the U.S. invasion of 2003. This problem was on prominent display in a 2013 report by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, which found that the $60 billion in U.S. funds spent over 10 years in the country produced few tangible results. The report blamed this on poor coordination with Iraqis, misplaced priorities, misplanned projects, contractor wastefulness, corruption, and security problems. Iraq’s government, which spent $138 billion during this period, did not do any better