Americans might think we are spending a lot of money on our own Pentagon, with its annual budget of more than half a trillion dollars a year, covering defense installations and service personnel at home as well as a vast array of worldwide military operations. But we are also building a brand new "Pentagon," or military headquarters, for Afghanistan for a mere $92 million. The five-story, 516,000 square-foot building now under construction features domed roofs and a high-tech basement to link Aghan generals at the headquarters with their troops fighting the Taliban across the country, according to a Washington Post report. But the Kabul "Pentagon," while a high-profile symbol of continued American commitment to the nation we invaded after the terrorist attacks of September 11. 2001, is but one item on what the Post described as "a $10 billion menu of construction projects aimed at bolstering Afghanistan's security forces." A total of 1,150 buildings have been planned, with more than 600 already completed at a cost of $4 billion, the Post reported. Ongoing projects include a $54 million Kabul headquarters for the Interior Ministry, which oversees the Afghan police, and a $102 million base for the Afghan military's 201st Corps in the eastern part of the country.
The U.S. building program continues even as American and NATO forces begin a withdrawal of troops scheduled to be completed by 2014. The withdrawal of U.S troops from Iraq at the end of last year has not stopped the flow of American dollars into that country, either. "Troops Have Withdrawn from Iraq, but U.S. Money Hasn't" was the headline over a Walter Pincus "Fine Print" column in the Washington Post last week. A pre-solicitation notice published on June 14 put the construction cost of a planned upgrade of the vast U.S. embassy in Baghdad at $60 to $80 million, wrote Pincus, who reported the State Department is planning to spend "up to $115 million" on the project, which is expected to take two years to complete. American diplomats and staff moved into the new $700 million embassy, set on 104 acres, just 3 1/2 years ago. Upgrades to the facility, said to be the world's largest embassy, will include a central utility power plant, an underground fuel storage facility holding a 21-day supply, and improvements to a compound-wide fire and water distribution, the domestic water system, the sanitary sewer system, the storm water system and the telecommunications system.
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Photo: Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak speaks during a joint press conference with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in Kabul, Afghanistan, June 7, 2012: AP Image