U.S. Spent $6.5 Million on Unused Afghan Broadcast Towers

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As of June 30, 2013, the United States had appropriated approximately $104 billion for relief and reconstruction in Afghanistan since 2002, and these funds have been used to build the Afghan National Security Forces, promote good government, conduct development assistance, and build infrastructure. Tom Engelhardt wrote in the Huffington Post, “U.S. military spent billions of taxpayer dollars in both Afghanistan and Iraq on nation-building infrastructural efforts of all sorts, and the Pentagon’s Inspector General (IG) repeatedly reported on the failures, disasters, and boondoggles that resulted.” One of the “failures” recently reported by Reuters explained that the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) found that $6.5 million U.S. taxpayer funds were used to construct six communication towers that were never used. “We have seen this problem time and time again, the red flags are ignored and the money is pushed out the door without proper planning and oversight,” John F. Sopko of SIGAR told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. The purpose of these towers was to provide Afghan civilians with expanded telecommunications services and media coverage, even though State Department officials and flag officers from the Defense Department had expressed concern about the viability of the project. According to Reuters, “Taliban forces were making local phone companies and mobile tower operators close down in the evening, and two of the four Afghan telecoms companies said they would be willing to interconnect with U.S. built towers, it said in its response to SIGAR’s inquiry.”

But by the time the towers were completed in 2012, Afghan firms had built their own network of towers and said they did not need the U.S.-built ones and would not pay to use them.” The State Department said, “After it became clear that the towers could not be used for their originally intended purpose, the Department considered alternatives but determined that there was no available foreign assistance or other State Department use for the towers.” Congress created the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) to provide independent and objective oversight of Afghanistan reconstruction projects and activities. John F. Sopko was sworn in as Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction on July 2, 2012.

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