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 Obama, Modi Break Nuclear Deal Deadlock

Impasse over liability issues had been stalling bilateral civilian nuclear cooperation; deal reached at start of US president's three-day visit to India More

WHO's Late Efforts in Tackling Ebola Highlight Need for Reform

Health experts debate measures to reform agency’s response to global public health emergencies in special one-day session on deadly outbreak More

One Tumultuous Year in Power for CAR's President

As sectarian violence raged across Central African Republic, interim President Catherine Samba-Panza has Herculean task: to end civil war and put country back on right track More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youthi
X
Julie Taboh
January 23, 2015 11:08 PM
Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.
Video

Video Secular, Religious Kurds Face Off in Southeast Turkey

Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast has been rocked by violence between religious and secular Kurds. Dorian Jones reports on the reasons behind the stand-off from the region's main city of Diyarbakir, which suffered the bloodiest fighting.
Video

Video Kenya: Misuse of Antibiotics Leading to Resistance by Immune System

In Kenya, the rise of drug resistant bacteria could reverse the gains made by medical science over diseases that were once treatable. Kenyans could be at risk of fatalities as a result if the power in antibiotics is not preserved. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story from Nairobi.
Video

Video Solar-Powered Plane Getting Ready to Circumnavigate Globe

Pilots of the solar plane that already set records flying without a drop of fuel are close to making their first attempt to fly the craft around the globe. They plan to do it in 25 flying days over a five month period. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video How Experts Decide Ethiopia Has the Best Coffee

Ethiopia’s coffee has been ranked as the best in the world by an international group of coffee connoisseurs. Not surprisingly, coffee is a top export for the country. But at home it is a source of pride. Marthe van der Wolf in Addis Ababa decided to find out what makes the bean and brew so special and how experts make their determinations.
Video

Video Yazidi Refugees at Center of Political Fight Between Turkey, Kurds

The treatment of thousands of Yazidis refugees who fled to Turkey to escape attacks by Islamic State militants has become the center of a dispute between the Turkish government and the country's pro-Kurdish movement. VOA's Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video World’s Richest 1% Forecast to Own More Than Half of Global Wealth

The combined wealth of the world's richest 1 percent will overtake that of the remaining 99 percent at some point in 2016, according to the anti-poverty charity Oxfam. Campaigners are demanding that policymakers take action to address the widening gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid