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Pentagon Pouring Your Money Into Afghanistan: Are They Preparing for a Very Long War?

Forget the "debates" in Washington over Afghan War policy. Construction activity and the flow of money suggests that the Pentagon plans to be there for a long, long time.

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In Afghanistan, companies like Fluor are clearly digging in. Fluor, in fact, describes itself as "co-located with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan, where the team coordinates, provides oversight, and implements Fluor's execution plan to provide the necessary resources and labor to accomplish this mission" of "providing multi-functional base life support and combat services support (CSS) to the U.S. and Coalition Forces in Afghanistan."

The company is "simultaneously constructing and managing the expansion of eight Forward Operating Bases[...] in Southern Afghanistan. This includes the construction of an FOB to accommodate 17,000 to 20,000 U.S. Military personnel." Fluor, no doubt, expects to be "co-located with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan" for a long time. In July 2009, the defense giant was awarded a $1.5 billion contract for LOGCAP IV services in Afghanistan; in October, the Army  reported that the LOGCAP program was responsible for erecting 6,020 units of containerized housing known as relocatable buildings or RLBs in Regional Command South.

In July, under an existing LOGCAP IV contract,  scandal-tainted defense contractor DynCorp International, along with partners  CH2M Hill and Taos Industries,  received a one year $643.5 million order to "provide existing bases within the Afghanistan South AOR [area of responsibility] with operations and maintenance support, including but not limited to: facilities management, electrical power, water, sewage and waste management, laundry operations, food services and transportation motor pool operations," as well as "construction services for additional sites." With an eye to the future, the Pentagon has included four one-year options in the contract which, if taken up, would be worth an estimated $5.8 billion.

Just recently, the Australian military indicated it was also digging in for a long stay,  announcing a $37 million upgrade of its main base near Tarin Kowt in Oruzgan province, to be completed by mid-2011. As at other NATO facilities, increasing numbers of U.S. troops have been operating out of Tarin Kowt recently and, in late September, the U.S.-based company Kandahar Constructors signed a $25 million deal with the Pentagon for runway upgrades there, also to be completed in 2011.

Speaking the Language of Occupation

In 2009 alone, after many billions of dollars had already gone into the construction, expansion, and maintenance of U.S. bases in Afghanistan, American taxpayers were called upon to pay for more than $1 billion in construction contracts -- and based on the evidence at hand, including those future options, this may prove just a drop in the proverbial bucket.

All of this has been happening without a clear plan laid out in Washington for the future of U.S. military operations in that country, without a legitimate national government in Kabul, and of course with no shortage of  infrastructural repairs needed at home. Americans curious to know much of anything about the Pentagon's Afghan building boom beyond Bagram would have found little on the nightly news or in major newspapers. It has essentially been carried out in the dark, far away, and with only the most modest reportorial interest.

Forget for a moment the "debates" in Washington over Afghan War policy and, if you just focus on the construction activity and the flow of money into Afghanistan, what you see is a war that, from the point of view of the Pentagon, isn't going to end any time soon. In fact, the U.S. military's building boom in that country suggests that, in the ninth year of the Afghan War, the Pentagon has plans for a far longer-term, if not near-permanent, garrisoning of the country, no matter what course Washington may decide upon. Alternatively, it suggests that the Pentagon is willing to waste taxpayer money (which might have shored up sagging infrastructure in the U.S. and created a plethora of jobs) on what will sooner or later be abandoned runways, landing zones and forward operating bases.

 
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