According to a recently released report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), the U.S. military spent over $60 million building power lines in northeastern Afghanistan that are not only totally useless but also present a threat to residents.
The project, overseen by the Army Corps of Engineers, was the third phase of a project that cost a total of $116 million. The contract for the project was originally awarded to an Afghan company and was intended to result in a new power grid system in the country’s northeastern section.
However, the project was plagued with problems from the start. Initially, the Afghan government had agreed to help clear a path for the power lines by purchasing privately held land, a key step in the project’s initial stage. Even though the Afghan government never followed through, the contractors built the power lines anyway.
The poor wording of the contract also did not explicitly contain provisions for the company to connect the power lines to the nearest power substation and thus they are nonfunctional. Yet, not only are the power lines useless, but they also could present a danger to residents still living on the land where the lines were built, as the safety of the lines cannot be tested. SIGAR inspectors noted that many of the pylons of the power lines were built on unstable terrain and made with poor quality concrete that had already begun to crumble in several locations.
While the project serves as a striking example of wasted taxpayer money and government mismanagement, it is by no means an isolated incident in terms of U.S. efforts to “rebuild” Afghanistan as part of the now 17-year-long U.S. occupation of the country.
SIGAR has identified numerous projects that were equally wasteful over the years, including a failed electronic payment system for tax collection in the country which cost American taxpayers $160 million. Another instance was the spending of $93 million on “forest” camouflage gear for Afghan troops despite the fact that there are few forests in Afghanistan, which cover around 2% of the country.
In addition, SIGAR has released several other reports so far this year that detail several other troubling incidents, including employees of the Army Corps of Engineers soliciting bribes, employees of U.S. government contractors accepting kickbacks, poorly built infrastructure and little to no maintenance of schools and hospitals built with U.S. taxpayer funds. The still ongoing U.S. occupation and “reconstruction” of Afghanistan is believed to have cost the U.S. over $1 trillion since 2001.