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Forum Post: US Blows $80 million more on abandoned Afghan consulate just built

Posted 5 years ago on May 6, 2012, 7:40 a.m. EST by bklynsboy (834)
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

After 10 years of failed war, US can't build a safe consulate and discards $80 million taxpayer dollars abandoning a just built consulate. Yet Obama commits 10 more years of burning up US treasure and lives in a laughably failed venture of "building" Afghanistan, while America is so broke and crumbling it can't afford to keep street lights on. Meanwhile China trades globally and gets stronger daily without firing a shot and no wars.

U.S. abandons consulate site in Afghanistan, citing security risks

By Ernesto Londoño, Published: May 5


After signing a 10-year lease and spending more than $80 million on a site envisioned as the United States’ diplomatic hub in northern Afghanistan, American officials say they have abandoned their plans, deeming the location for the proposed compound too dangerous.

Eager to raise an American flag and open a consulate in a bustling downtown district of the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e Sharif, officials in 2009 sought waivers to stringent State Department building rules and overlooked significant security problems at the site, documents show. The problems included relying on local building techniques that made the compound vulnerable to a car bombing, according to an assessment by the U.S. Embassy in Kabul that was obtained by The Washington Post.

The decision to give up on the site is the clearest sign to date that, as the U.S.-led military coalition starts to draw down troops amid mounting security concerns, American diplomats are being forced to reassess how to safely keep a viable presence in Afghanistan. The plan for the Mazar-e Sharif consulate, as laid out in a previously undisclosed diplomatic memorandum, is a cautionary tale of wishful thinking, poor planning and the type of stark choices the U.S. government will have to make in coming years as it tries to wind down its role in the war.

In March 2009, Richard C. Holbrooke, who had recently been appointed President Obama’s envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, lobbied for the establishment of a consulate in Mazar-e Sharif within 60 days, according to the memo. The city was deemed relatively safe at the time, far removed from Taliban strongholds of the south. A consulate just a short walk from Mazar-e Sharif’s Blue Mosque, one of the country’s most sacred religious sites, was seen as a way to reassure members of the ethnic Tajik and Uzbek minorities that dominate the north that the United States was committed to Afghanistan for the long haul.

“At the time, [Holbrooke] pushed hard to identify property and stand up an interim consulate, on a very tight timeline, to signal our commitment to the Afghan people,” according to the January memo by Martin Kelly, the acting management counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. Holbrooke died in 2010 of complications from heart surgery.

An embassy spokesman declined to respond to questions about the assessment of the Mazar-e Sharif compound, saying that as a policy matter officials do not discuss leaked documents.

Trouble from the start

Had the Mazar-e Sharif consulate opened this year as planned, it would have been the second of four the U.S. government intends to set up. The United States has a consulate in the western Afghan city of Herat and is assessing options for the three other cities where it intends to keep a permanent diplomatic presence: Kandahar in the south, Jalalabad in the east and Mazar-e Sharif.

The embassy memo says the facility was far from ideal from the start. The compound, which housed a hotel when the Americans took it on, shared a wall with local shopkeepers. The space between the outer perimeter wall and buildings inside — a distance known as “setback” in war zone construction — was not up to U.S. diplomatic standards set by the State Department’s Overseas Security Policy Board. The complex was surrounded by several tall buildings from which an attack could easily be launched.

“The Department nonetheless granted exceptions to standards to move forward quickly, establish an interim presence and raise the flag,” Kelly wrote.

Among the corners cut in the interest of expediency, the memo says, was failing to assess how well the facility could withstand a car bombing, a task normally carried out by the department’s Bureau of Overseas Building Operations. After Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker arrived in Kabul in July, officials asked the bureau to conduct a blast assessment.

“We believe the survey will show that a [car bomb] would cause catastrophic failure of the building in light of the local construction techniques and materials,” Kelly wrote.

The structure’s outer perimeter wall is composed of sun-dried bricks made from mud, straw and manure, and the contractor used untreated timber for the roof, the memo says.

A chain of security incidents has prevented U.S. officials from moving into the facility, which was scheduled to be ready for occupancy last month. Most notable was the April 2011 attack on the United Nations compound, which is close to the would-be U.S. consulate. A mob enraged by the burning of Korans by a fringe American pastor stormed into the compound after Friday prayers and killed three European U.N. workers and four of their Nepalese guards.

Susceptible to attack

There were other reasons for concern. In August, according to the memo, Afghan security forces uncovered a “sophisticated surveillance operation against the consulate, including information about plans to breach the consulate site.” In December, four people were killed in a bombing at the Blue Mosque, less than an eighth of a mile from the prospective consulate.

The attacks and threats, Kelly wrote, “are symptomatic of a real, measurable uptick in the threat stream.” The hours-long attack in September on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul from a nearby building under construction renewed concerns about the vulnerabilities of the Mazar-e Sharif site.

“The entire compound is surrounded by buildings with overwatch and there is almost no space on the compound that cannot be watched, or fired upon, from an elevated position outside the compound,” Kelly wrote.

Responding effectively to an emergency at the consulate would be next to impossible, Kelly noted, because the facility does not have space for a Black Hawk helicopter to land. It would take a military emergency response team 11 / 2 to 2 hours to reach the site “under good conditions,” he said.

In December, embassy officials began exploring alternative short-term sites for their diplomatic staff in northern Afghanistan. A Western diplomat familiar with the situation said the United States has sought, so far in vain, to persuade the German and Swedish governments to sublet it. The diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the matter, said European diplomats have found the prospect laughable.



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[-] 0 points by hchc (3297) from Tampa, FL 5 years ago

Two interesting trends going on here

  1. We are officially in a era of perpetual war. If you vote for either corporate party, you are voting for war.

  2. Most people cannot point out on a map 3 out of the 6 nations we are bombing. I'm going to assume that most cant point out two.

This country is fucked.

[-] 1 points by bklynsboy (834) 5 years ago

You're right on target! Long term prospects poor. China trades globally, gets stronger daily economically, which is true strength, and is whipping our ass with zero wars and a fraction of our military budget.

[-] 0 points by Rush123 (3) 5 years ago

The War was not a failure at all. We rebuilt Iraq and they now have an army that they can use to take care of themselves. Plus we will be getting out of Afghanistan soon to and we are training and building up their army to. It was a total success. Remember it took 6 years to get Germany back on track and some 7 or 8 years to get Japan ack on track.

[-] 2 points by bklynsboy (834) 5 years ago

The Iraq war bankrupted the US with $2 TRILLION cost, killed 4500 GIs, maimed 78,000, killed 500,000 Iraqi civilians and destroyed the country. There are daily suicide bombs and killings. ALL FOR THE FAKE REASONS OF SADDAM CAUSING 9/11 and HAVING WMD, WHICH WERE PROVED FALSE. You call that a great success? Stop watching FOX and get some real news.

[-] 0 points by hchc (3297) from Tampa, FL 5 years ago

2 Trillion out of 15 trillion is less than a quarter of it.

[-] 1 points by bklynsboy (834) 5 years ago

What a bargain.

[-] 0 points by hchc (3297) from Tampa, FL 5 years ago

Its still a waste. I'm just saying that our problems with money are spread out over a wider spread than just the war. The gov cant manage its money, and the people have a 2% savings rate.

[-] 1 points by bklynsboy (834) 5 years ago

Yes. And spending as much as the rest of the world combined on military, not necessary, is bankrupting us. Look at China: a fraction of our military budget and killing us in trade and wealth.

[-] 0 points by Hades (-13) 5 years ago

Hey! For once we have an RNC plant!

[-] 1 points by bklynsboy (834) 5 years ago

Is that something to be proud of?


[-] 0 points by hchc (3297) from Tampa, FL 5 years ago

They had an army before. Their new army is led by our 15,000 contractors.

We just signed onto 2024 with Afghan.

Ending these two "wars" was never part of the plan.

It did take years to get those two back on track. We destroyed them.

[-] 2 points by Rush123 (3) 5 years ago

It's by 2014 not 2024, their army was unorganized and led by a dictator. We built a better and more supplied army that is able to hold its own. We weren't they only ones that was at war with Germany. The nuking saved hundreds of thousands of lives. It was WWII and we did the right thing.

[-] 1 points by gnomunny (6819) from St Louis, MO 5 years ago

No, we're there until at least 2024. Most the troops are supposed to leave in 2014, but we'll still have thousands there until at least 2024. Watch Obama's speech again. hchc is correct.