Money Has Run Out for Afghan 'Pentagon'

Monday, 09 Dec 2013 06:55 AM

By Elliot Jager

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The United States has spent about $107 million so far on a still unfinished Kabul building that is supposed to serve as Afghanistan's 'Pentagon, but construction has now been suspended because the U.S. government has run out of money, The Washington Post reports.

It's now up to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to decide whether to authorize an additional $24 million to complete the building.

U.S. taxpayers, meanwhile, have provided about $53 billion since 2005 to train, equip, house and feed Afghanistan's security services personnel, the Post reported Sunday.

The unfinished 'Pentagon' is part of a $9.3 billion construction splurge financed by Washington to build bases, outposts and hospitals for the Afghan military.

The cost-overruns have been blamed on the unique security, logistics, and weather difficulties of building inside Kabul's heavily fortified "green zone." The building is also designed to withstand an 8.0 magnitude earthquake, adding to the costs, and neighboring Pakistan sometimes holds up supply convoys at its border with Afghanistan, causing construction delays.

The New York Times also reports problems with corrupt Afghan contractors. Some are known to have ties with the Taliban insurgency, the newspaper reported last month.

But according to the Post, there is no proof the 'Pentagon' project ran out of money just because of corruption that is endemic to Afghanistan. John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan, for example, said poor planning, lax recordkeeping, shoddy oversight, and security problems all contributed to exhausting the construction budget.

He told the Post the project is typical of the "rush to spend" U.S. tax dollars on the Afghan military, he said, adding that American commanders come and go while local contractors press for additional funds even if the work they did was not evaluated or their bills vetted.

"That is a recipe for disaster," Sopko said.

An unnamed U.S. official also told the Post, "Nobody was watching it like they should, and it's just been an open checkbook. We failed, big time."

There are dozens of ongoing projects worth over a $1 billion whose completion will be jeopardized if Kabul and Washington cannot agree on regulating the U.S. presence in the country after 2014, the Post also reported.

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