Wasting Away Again in Afghanistan

SIGAR finds $7.3M security facility going largely unused, unkempt

Afghan police officer stands guard at the site of an explosion in the Imam Sahib district of Kunduz / AP
January 30, 2013

American inspectors have found that a $7.3 million security facility in Afghanistan remains largely unused and unkempt months after being turned over to Afghan security forces, raising further concerns about United States taxpayer waste in post-war Afghanistan.

The special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction (SIGAR) has found that the multi-million dollar Imam Sahib Border Police company headquarters located in Afghanistan’s Kunduz province has remained largely unused and ignored since being turned over to Afghan border police last year.

Inspectors who toured the 12-building, 175-person facility found that just 12 Afghan personnel were stationed on site and that equipment was haphazardly strewn about the complex, according to SIGAR’s report, which was released late Tuesday.

"$7.3 million worth of construction sits largely unused," SIGAR concluded, echoing its past reports, which have found that millions of dollars have been wasted building border police sites that remain vacant.

SIGAR’s inspectors were only able to tour two of the 12 buildings on the compound because "most buildings were locked and on-site personnel did not have keys," according to the report, which noted that no one was aware of any "plans to move additional staff into the compound."

Pictures of the building released by SIGAR depict a barren site with few cars and no people present.

Experts told the Free Beacon this type of neglect is par for the course in post-war Afghanistan and Iraq.

The report also suggests there continues to be lapses in the Afghan security arrangements, particularly in sensitive border regions, since the majority of American forces departed the country.

"In this case, we built what will become a $7.3 million shelter for sheep and goats, if it is not looted first," said Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon advisor on Iran and Iraq. "The problem with U.S. assistance is the metrics is often money allocated or spent, rather than what needs are addressed."

"More than a year after we withdrew from Iraq," Rubin added, "Iraqi Kurds are still joking about all the public toilets USAID constructed in the mountains. Stories like this will always have sequels until the U.S. government names and shames those involved in wasting tax payer money and sends them packing to the private sector where they might learn what it's like when the government spends other peoples' money."

Inspectors at the Afghanistan security compound found that "most buildings appeared unused and some equipment—specifically, wood burning stoves near the site’s dining facility—had been dismantled," according to the report.

The Afghans do not appear to have any plans to station trained personnel at the site.

"Sustaining the facility will require personnel with appropriate skills to keep the electrical generator; fueling station; water treatment system; and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems in working order," SIGAR notes in its report. "However, there is neither an operation and maintenance contract nor a plan to train Afghan personnel to operate and maintain equipment. This raises questions about the Afghan government’s ability to sustain the facility."

Living quarters on the site were also unused and inspectors reported that "our examination of the dining facility through the building’s windows [because it was locked] indicated that it was empty and appeared to have never been used."

There is evidence that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), which oversees such reconstruction projects, has failed to properly assess the cost and need for these compounds.

"Our primary recommendation is to review plans for constructing Afghan border police facilities to determine whether site construction contracts can be downsized or facilities redesigned to reduce unnecessary costs or if facilities, including this location, are needed, and provide an explanation of the review results," SIGAR wrote in a letter to USACE on Tuesday.

The Army Corps of Engineers did not return request for comment.

SIGAR’s findings comport with its past inspections, which have found that other Afghan border police facilities remain unoccupied.

"These findings are similar to a July 2012 inspection of Afghan border police facilities in Nangarhar province, where we noted that $19 million was spent to construct four border police sites, yet the facilities were unoccupied or not being used as intended," the report stated.

SIGAR reported in December that Afghan authorities have additionally failed to implement basic anti-money laundering procedures mandated by the U.S., potentially allowing money to flow to terrorists.