Pentagon spends $34 million on unused military base in Afghanistan

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The US military has constructed a $34 million building in southwestern Afghanistan, which it initially planned to use as its headquarters. But as the US scales back its troops, the brand new 64,000 square foot building may soon be demolished.

“What the hell were they thinking? There was never any justification to build something this fancy,” a two-star Army general based in Afghanistan told the Washington Post on condition of anonymity.

In 2009, the Pentagon and military officials based in South Carolina issued contracts for the construction of the two-story building, which they planned to use as headquarters for the Marine forces at Camp Leatherneck in southern Afghanistan.

Military commanders protested its construction, arguing that there was no use for the extravagant structure. Former Maj. Gen. Richard P. Mills argued that his modest headquarters were sufficient for the job. Other Marine officers also objected to the plans, but their concerns were disregarded.

The Pentagon awarded a private British firm, AMEC Earth and Environment, a contract to build the headquarters. Construction began in November 2011, even though President Obama had already announced the end of the surge and the impending withdrawal.

The extravagant project was completed this year, costing the US government $34 million – even though the military now has no plans to use it. The two-story structure, which is larger than a football field, features a briefing theater, large offices, 110-volt outlets for US appliances, luxurious chairs and furniture, equipment to wage modern war, and powerful air conditioning and heating systems which require costly amounts of electricity.

John F. Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan’s reconstruction, told Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in a letter that the structure is “the best constructed building I have seen in my travels to Afghanistan.”

But the construction of this building represents a common problem that can be seen throughout Afghanistan: the US has wasted millions of dollars on buildings that stand empty or incomplete as the military scales back its troops.

“Unfortunately, it is unused, unoccupied, and presumably will never be used for its intended purpose,” Sopko wrote. “This is an example of what is wrong with military construction in general – once a project is started, it is very difficult to stop.”

The US must now decide whether to hand the facility over to the Afghan army or demolish it. Since the huge windowless building is equipped for US appliances and requires expensive fuel purchases for its generators, it may be difficult for Afghans to sustain.

“The building will probably be demolished,” the two-star Army general said.

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