Pentagon spends $34 million on unused military base in Afghanistan

The US military has raised a $34 million building in southwestern Afghanistan, which it initially planned to use as its headquarters. But as the US scales back its troops, the brand new 64,000 square foot building may soon be demolished.

“What the hell were they thinking? There was never any
justification to build something this fancy,”
a two-star Army
general based in Afghanistan told the Washington Post on
condition of anonymity.

In 2009, military officials based in South Carolina and the
Pentagon issued contracts for the construction of the two-story
building, which they planned to use as headquarters for the
Marine forces at Camp Leatherneck in southern Afghanistan.

Military commanders protested its construction, arguing that
there was no use for the extravagant structure. Former Maj. Gen.
Richard P. Mills argued that his modest headquarters were
sufficient for the job. Other Marine officers also objected to
the plans, but their concerns were disregarded.

The Pentagon awarded a private British firm, AMEC Earth and
Environment, a contract to build the headquarters. Construction
began in November 2011, even though President Obama had already
announced the end of the surge and the impending withdrawal.

The extravagant project was completed this year, costing the US
government $34 million — even though the military now has no
plans to use it. The two-story structure, which is larger than a
football field, features a briefing theater, large offices,
110-volt outlets for US appliances, luxurious chairs and
furniture, equipment to wage modern war, and powerful air
conditioning and heating systems that require costly amounts of
electricity.

John F. Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan’s
reconstruction, told Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in a letter that the structure is “the best
constructed building I have seen in my travels to
Afghanistan.”

RC-SW Command and Control Facility

But the construction of this building represents a common problem
that can be seen throughout Afghanistan: the US has wasted
millions of dollars on buildings that stand empty or incomplete
as the military scales back its troops. 

“Unfortunately, it is unused, unoccupied, and presumably will
never be used for its intended purpose,”
Sopko wrote.
“This is an example of what is wrong with military
construction in general – once a project is started, it is very
difficult to stop.”

The US must now decide whether to hand over the facility to the
Afghan army or demolish it. Since the huge windowless building is
equipped for US appliances and requires expensive fuel purchases
for its generators, it may be difficult for Afghans to sustain.

“The building will probably be demolished,” the two-star
Army general told the Post.

But the military headquarters, which have the capacity to hold
1,500 personnel, is just one of many expensive structures that
will never serve their intended purpose. The US military recently
spent $45 million on a facility to repair armored vehicles in
Kandahar province, which is now being used as a location to sort
through equipment being shipped out of the country, the Post
reports. The State Department last year also abandoned plans to
turn a large building into a consulate, after spending more than
$80 million on a 10-year lease.

The wasteful spending on extravagant structures in Afghanistan
closely mirrors US spending in Iraq. The US spent $60 billion to
rebuild Iraq, but a final report from Special Inspector General for Iraq
Reconstruction Stuart Bowen concluded that more than $9 billion
was wasted.

After US troops withdrew from Iraq, they left behind a plethora
of abandoned projects, including a 3,600-bed prison that cost $40
million, a $165 million children’s hospital that remains unused,
and a $108 million wastewater treatment center that remains
unfinished. Building materials worth $1.2 million were abandoned
when fears of violence prompted the US to abandon construction of
the prison.

In Afghanistan, the US is now facing many of the same problems.
And with a $34 million base standing unused and equipped for
modern warfare, the US must decide whether to destroy or hand
over the structure.  

“Both alternatives for how to resolve this issue are troubling
— destroying a never-occupied and never-used building or turning
over what may be a “white elephant” to the Afghan government that
it may not have the capacity to sustain,”
Sopko writes,
relaying his concerns to the defense secretary that he is
“deeply troubled that the military may have spent taxpayer
funds on a construction project that should have been
stopped.”

Republished with permission from: RT