News / USA

US Military Admits New Afghanistan Base Unlikely to be Used

  • $34 million unused command & control center - exterior view (SIGAR)
  • $34 million unused command & control center - tactical operations center (SIGAR)
  • $34 million unused command & control center - unopened boxes and unused chairs (SIGAR)
  • $34 million unused command & control center - office furniture (SIGAR)
  • $34 million unused command & control center - office furniture (SIGAR)
  • $34 million unused command & control center - heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems (SIGAR)
  • $34 million unused command & control center - heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems (SIGAR)

$34 Million Unused Command & Control Center in Afghanistan

A U.S. congressional body overseeing government-funded projects in Afghanistan says the U.S. military has spent $34 million to build a new complex in the country's south, but is not likely to ever use it.

The Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said Wednesday it believes the U.S. facility in the southern Afghan province of Helmand is a "potentially troubling example of waste."

The body created by Congress to detect waste in Afghanistan raised that concern in a letter sent to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and senior military leaders on Monday. It released the letter to the media on Wednesday.

The U.S. military hired British firm AMEC Earth and Environment to start building the facility in 2011, and intended to use it as a regional command headquarters. But Special Inspector General John Sopko said military officials recently told him it will not be occupied. He also said some U.S. commanders in Helmand objected to plans for the building in 2010, saying there was no need for it.

Sopko said he is "deeply troubled" that the military may have spent taxpayer funds on a project that "should have been stopped." He asked Defense Secretary Hagel to respond to several questions about it by July 25. Defense Department spokesman George Little said Wednesday that Sopko's letter is under review.

"I don't know if [Secretary Hagel] will provide a formal response. I do not have one at this stage," Little said. "I think it is going to take us a little bit of time to review the findings and to coordinate with the SIGAR."

The 6,000-square-meter complex is located at Camp Leatherneck, a major U.S. military base in Afghanistan's desolate south. It consists mostly of a large windowless building with spacious offices and expensive heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems for up to 1,500 staff.

Construction mostly finished in 2012, but various improvements were made early this year.

The Special Inspector General cited a senior military official as saying the site may become unprotected as Camp Leatherneck's perimeter shrinks with the gradual withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan in the coming year.

Sopko said that leaves the U.S. military with two main options - demolishing the building or handing it over to the Afghan government.

Washington-based senior writer for the Marine Corps Times Dan Lamothe said he saw the building last October, while spending 10 weeks on assignment in Helmand. He said he doubts the Afghan government has the capacity to manage the costly facility, whose electricity system runs on U.S. rather than Afghan voltage.  

"Helmand province and [the Afghan capital] Kabul may as well be two different countries in a lot of practical ways," Lamothe said. "The government is so far removed from the everyday lives of the people in Helmand that I do not see how Kabul would keep track of something like that."

Lamothe said he witnessed another example of U.S. government "waste" while embedded with an Afghan border police unit in the Taghaz region of southern Helmand. He said the United States built a $1 million police building for the Afghans with a kitchen and modern toilets, but its septic tank filled up because no one emptied it.

"There was major concern about how are we going to get the septic tanks emptied, and if the Afghans are going to do it, or should the United States foot the bill," he said. "For me, that's going to be a running problem - is it even feasible for them to continue using indoor plumbing in a place that is that remote, if the Afghan government is not going to take care of it?"

Sopko said the U.S. military officials who spoke to his team believe the Camp Leatherneck building probably will be demolished.

Luis Ramirez contributed to this report from the Pentagon.

Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

You May Like

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike in Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid