Probe Re-Launched into Unused US Afghanistan Facility

Image: Probe Re-Launched into Unused US Afghanistan Facility U.S. Marines at Camp Leatherneck in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

Friday, 06 Dec 2013 12:56 PM

By Melissa Clyne

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An inspector general has re-launched a probe into why $34 million was spent on a military facility in Afghanistan that was never used and will be demolished or turned over the Afghan government once U.S. forces pull out.

John Sopko, special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, says questions asked about the facility at Camp Leatherneck were never answered by military brass in his original inquiry.

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"American taxpayers aren't getting the accountability they deserve,"

Sopko said in a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and other Pentagon officials informing them of his decision, Fox News reports.

Last summer, Sopko stalled his investigation amid assurances by Pentagon officials that it was conducting its own investigation into the expensive, so-called "white elephant" facility, The Washington Post reports. But Sopko never got the answers he was looking for and the Army major general who wrote the military’s report justified the need for the massive complex as an “enduring base.”

The Post reported that the windowless, 64,000-square-foot headquarters building in southwestern Afghanistan is equipped with “all the tools to wage a modern war,” including tiered seating, a briefing theater, spacious offices, fancy chairs, and powerful air conditioning. But military commanders there have no plans to ever use it.

Construction began when President Obama announced the surge in southern Afghanistan in 2009. Military commanders in the field said then that they didn’t want or need it and say now that with the withdrawal of troops, there’s no reason to move operations there.

“For many senior officers, the unused headquarters has come to symbolize the staggering cost of Pentagon mismanagement: As American troops pack up to return home, U.S.-funded contractors are placing the finishing touches on projects that are no longer required or pulling the plug after investing millions of dollars,” the Post reported.

Sopko has said the facility, which he characterized as one of the best constructed buildings in the country, is too big for the few hundred troops remaining in the region.

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“Unfortunately, it is unused, unoccupied, and presumably will never be used for its intended purpose,” he wrote. “Military officials explained that this is an example of what is wrong with military construction in general — once a project is started, it’s very difficult to stop.”

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