The empty $34M command and control center in southern Afghanistan (Office of the Special Inspector General for …
Voice of America reports that the unused site came to the attention of a congressional oversight committee that reviews projects in Afghanistan.
"I don't know if [Secretary Chuck Hagel] will provide a formal response. I do not have one at this stage," said Defense Department spokesman George Little when asked about the project. "I think it is going to take us a little bit of time to review the findings and to coordinate with the SIGAR."
SIGAR stands for the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, which described the base as a "potentially troubling example of waste."
Special Inspector General John Sopko told Congress that some U.S. commanders opposed the 20,000-square-foot installation’s construction in 2010. But a year later, a British firm was nonetheless hired to build it. Originally, it was planned to serve as a regional command headquarters in the country’s southern region. Technically, it was designed to house 1,500 staff. But now, commanders say it’s unlikely to ever be occupied by military personnel.
Sopko said that as U.S. forces begin to leave the country, they will be left with two options: destroy the facility or hand it over to Afghan officials.
And as of today, at least one person who spent time at the facility thinks demolishing it makes more sense.
"Helmand province and [the Afghan capital] Kabul may as well be two different countries in a lot of practical ways," Marine Corps Times writer Dan Lamothe told VOA. "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 says the project reminds him of another recent failed venture in the country during which a police station was built with a new septic system. However, the toilets eventually had to be shut down because no one knew how to operate the system.
The revelation of the unused base was followed by another example of potential waste in the country revealed by SIGAR on Thursday. It also was announced that an $11 million solid-waste trash compactor has gone largely unused, with most trash simply being burned in outdoor piles. SIGAR said that not only is the equipment being left unused but that U.S. military officials are putting their health at risk by standing in the vicinity of the burning trash piles.
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