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

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid