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

TEXT SIZE - +
— 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 Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

46 people are confirmed dead, but some 250 remain trapped inside sunken ferry More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid