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Pentagon Found Wasting $43 Million On Afghan Gas Station

  • RFE/RL

The United States spent $43 million on a natural gas station in northern Afghanistan that should have cost just $500,000, a Pentagon watchdog reported on November 2.

In a scathing letter to Defense Secretary Ash Carter, Special Inspector-General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko blasted the project's "exorbitant cost to U.S. taxpayers."

He noted that the project cost 140 times more than a similar gas station in Pakistan, which cost $500,000 to construct.

The Pentagon failed to even conduct a feasibility study before starting construction, he said.

The gas station in Sheberghan, Afghanistan, which opened in 2012, was created to show that compressed natural gas could be used in Afghanistan effectively. It was closed for lack of a market or skilled operators this year.

The inspector-general said a feasibility study likely would have prevented the waste because it would have found that Afghanistan lacks the natural gas transmission and distribution infrastructure needed to support a market for vehicles that are fueled with compressed natural gas.

"Most troubling," he said, was that the U.S. Defense Department has been unable to explain the high costs or other aspects of the project.

Senator Claire McCaskill, a Democrat who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, blasted the "outrageous, wasteful spending."

"There are few things in this job that literally make my jaw drop," she said.

The report offered a powerful illustration of America's huge challenges improving governance and accountability in Afghanistan.

In all, Washington has spent nearly $110 billion for reconstruction in Afghanistan since 2002.

Since 2012, the inspector-general's office has published 136 reports identifying more than $1 billion in potential savings. It has also launched 538 investigations that have led to 73 arrests, 69 convictions or guilty pleas, and savings of over $500 million.

Among the problems identified was a failed counternarcotics program that cost more than $8 billion, planes that cost billions but could never fly, and a $500,000 health clinic that lacked water and electricity, forcing staff to wash newborns in a nearby river.

With reporting by Reuters and AFP
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