U.S. taxpayers footed the bill of the new $155 million military headquarters for the government of Afghanistan. But it make come to nothing, due to deficiencies found in its construction.
According to the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, John F. Sopko, the concrete structure may not withstand a significant earthquake. In a report he wrote for the Department of Defense, Sopko wrote, “Although the building generally met contract requirements and appears well built, we found some construction deficiencies that may have safety implications . . . in the event of an earthquake.”
Afghanistan is prone to seismic events. For example, a 7.5-magnitude tremor Pakistan and Afghanistan in October 2015, killing at least 400 and flattening buildings in the region. It brought back memories of the devastating quake of 2005, that killed more than 75,000 people and displaced 3.5 million.
(US Special Forces, Mirza Valley, Kandahar province, Afghanistan)
Modern engineering standards indicate that foundations for large buildings should be segmented, thus allowing seismic waves to be diverted in multiple directions in order to limit damage due to shaking. The brand-new military headquarters does not meet the standards of the American Society of Civil Engineers, the report says. In addition, there were significant cost over-runs in the construction of the headquarters. When the project was proposed in 2009, $49 million was penciled in as the cost.
Questions continue to be raised about the $68 billion in funding for Afghan security forces spent by the U.S. since 2001. This includes $6 billion for military construction.
The worsening situation on the ground in Afhganistan is forcing President Obama to re-think his decision to draw down American forces in the country was the U.S. has been at war for 15 years. The Taliban are staging new offensives, while prospects for peace are diminishing. Also, the economy is weak and confidence in the government is waning while Afghan police and military struggle to keep resistance in check. U.S. spending on re-construction alone, as of May 2015, is in excess of $109 billion.
Reports out of the Pentagon suggest that Obama is rethinking his plan to reduce the number of American troops from 9,800 to 5,500 before leaving office. This comes 13 months after he cut U.S. forces by 90 percent.
(Artist's concept of Afghan military headquarters)
In another case, the United States built a 65,000 sq. foot headquarters for its own military that American taxpayers at least $25 million. Three U.S. generals tried to prevent the project from going ahead, but failed. It was intended for troops who were supposed to come with the expected temporary "surge" of forces in 2010 during the Obama administration. But even the most optimistic projections for completion of the building made it so that the project would not be finished until six months after the troops were slated to return home. In time, the cost of the project doubled and became a joke among Marines. Despite objections by senior officers, the Department of Defense greenlighted the project just in case it would be needed.
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