Pentagon Pouring Your Money Into Afghanistan: Are They Preparing for a Very Long War?
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A Mob of FOBs
It seems that no one outside the Pentagon knows just exactly how many U.S. camps, forward operating bases, combat outposts, patrol bases and other fortified sites the U.S. military is currently using or constructing in Afghanistan. And while the Americans have recently abandoned a few of their installations, effectively ceding the northeastern province of Nuristan to Taliban forces, elsewhere a base-building boom has been underway.
In April, Contrack was awarded another $28 million contract for work on airfields -- to be performed at unspecified sites in Afghanistan. In June, Florida-based IAP Worldwide Services was awarded a $21 million contract to enhance electrical power distribution at the U.S. Marines' still-growing Forward Operating Base (FOB) Leatherneck in Helmand Province, a Taliban stronghold. Scheduled for completion in June 2010, that project is only part of IAP's work, which has involved "almost two dozen power plants at U.S. Army bases in Afghanistan and Iraq" that, according to the company's promotional literature, its teams have "delivered, installed, operated and maintained."
FOB Dwyer, also in Helmand Province, is fast becoming a "hub" for air support in southern Afghanistan, according to Captain Vincent Rea of the Air Force's 809th Expeditionary Red Horse Squadron. To that end, Marine Corps and Air Force personnel are building runways and helipads to accommodate ever more fixed-wing and rotary aircraft on the base. The two services collaborated on the construction of a 4,300-foot airstrip capable of accommodating giant C-130 Hercules transport aircraft that increase the U.S. capability to support more troops on more bases in more remote areas.
"With the C-130s coming in more frequently, more Marines can travel at a given time and will definitely help Camp Dwyer and other FOBs and COPs (Combat Outposts) to build up," says Capt. Alexander Lugo-Velazquez of Marine Light/Attack Helicopter Squadron 169. In September, the Air Force reported the completion of the first phase of a six-phase construction project at FOB Dwyer which will eventually include additional fuel pits and taxiways, increased tarmac space, and the lengthening of the runway to 6,000 feet. In October, according to government documents, the Army also began soliciting bids -- in the $10-$25 million range -- for construction of fuel storage and distribution facilities at FOB Dwyer. These, like the infrastructure upgrades at Bagram, are not scheduled to be completed until sometime in 2011.
In Helmand, as well as Farah, Kandahar, and Nimruz provinces, between June and September the Marine Expeditionary Brigade-Afghanistan alone established four new forward operating bases, "10 combat outposts, six patrol bases, and four ancillary operating positions, helicopter landing zones and an expeditionary airfield." In October, defense contractor AECOM Technology signed a $78 million, 6-month extension contract with the Army to "provide general-support maintenance as well as the operation of maintenance facilities, living quarters and offices at two U.S. military bases as well as forward operating bases and satellite locations" in Afghanistan.
Defense contracting giant Fluor has also been hard at work landing lucrative deals in Afghanistan. In March, the Army reported that, in accordance with President Obama's spring surge of troops, Regional Command East in Afghanistan had tasked Fluor to expand four existing forward operating bases and, if need be, build another eight new ones.
In Regional Command South, it was reported that "[e]mergency work to expand eight FOBs [wa]s underway after being competitively awarded to Fluor under LOGCAP IV." This is the current version of a military program first instituted by the Pentagon in 1985. It has been the key means by which military logistics and supply functions have been turned over to private contractors. (The previous version of the program, LOGCAP III, was awarded solely to Kellogg, Brown and Root Services or KBR, then a division of the oil services giant Halliburton, primarily in support of U.S. operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kuwait and was plagued by scandals.)