“…there are, at present, nearly 400 U.S. and coalition bases in Afghanistan, including camps, forward operating bases, and combat outposts. In addition, there are at least 300 Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP) bases, most of them built, maintained, or supported by the U.S. A small number of the coalition sites are mega-bases like Kandahar Airfield, which boasts one of the busiest runways in the world, and Bagram Air Base, a former Soviet facility that received a makeover, complete with Burger King and Popeyes outlets, and now serves more than 20,000 U.S. troops, in addition to thousands of coalition forces and civilian contractors.
In fact, Kandahar, which housed 9,000 coalition troops as recently as 2007, is expected to have a population of as many as 35,000 troops by the time President Obama’s surge is complete…
….Kandahar is just one of many sites currently being upgraded. Exact figures on the number of facilities being enlarged, improved, or hardened are unavailable but, according a spokesman for ISAF, the military plans to expand several more bases to accommodate the increase of troops as part of Afghan War commander Stanley McChrystalâ€™s surge strategy. In addition, at least 12 more bases are slated to be built to help handle the 30,000 extra American troops and thousands of NATO forces beginning to arrive in the country.
â€œCurrently we have over $3 billion worth of work going on in Afghanistan,â€ says Colonel Wilson, â€œand probably by the summer, when the dust settles from all the uplift, weâ€™ll have about $1.3 billion to $1.4 billion worth of that [in the South].â€ By comparison, between 2002 and 2008, the Army Corps of Engineers spent more than $4.5 billion on construction projects, most of it base-building, in Afghanistan….
…builders rely heavily on goods imported over extremely long, difficult to traverse, and sometimes embattled supply lines, all of which adds up to an extraordinarily costly affair. â€œOur business runs on materials,â€ Lieutenant General Robert Van Antwerp, commander of the Army Corps of Engineers, told an audience at a town hall meeting in Afghanistan in December 2009. â€œYou have to bring in the lumber, you have to bring in the steel, you have to bring in the containers and all that. Transport isnâ€™t easy in this country — number one, the roads themselves, number two, coming through other countries to get here — there are just huge challenges in getting the materials here.â€
To facilitate U.S. base construction projects, a new â€œvirtual storefrontâ€ — an online shopping portal — has been launched by the Pentagonâ€™s Defense Logistics Agency (DLA). The Maintenance, Repair and Operations Uzbekistan Virtual Storefront website and a defense contractor-owned and operated brick-and-mortar warehouse facility that supports it aim to provide regionally-produced construction materials to speed surge-accelerated building efforts.
From a facility located in Termez, Uzbekistan, cement, concrete, fencing, roofing, rope, sand, steel, gutters, pipe, and other construction material manufactured in countries like Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan can be rushed to nearby Afghanistan to accelerate base-building efforts. â€œHaving the products closer to the fight will make it easier for warfighters by reducing logistics response and delivery time," says Chet Evanitsky, the DLAâ€™s construction and equipment supply chain division chief.
Americaâ€™s Shadowy Base World
The Pentagonâ€™s most recent inventory of bases lists a total of 716 overseas sites. These include facilities owned and leased all across the Middle East as well as a significant presence in Europe and Asia, especially Japan and South Korea. Perhaps even more notable than the Pentagonâ€™s impressive public foreign property portfolio are the many sites left off the official inventory. While bases in the Persian Gulf countries of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates are all listed, one conspicuously absent site is Al-Udeid Air Base, a billion-dollar facility in nearby Qatar, where the U.S. Air Force secretly oversees its on-going unmanned drone wars.
The count also does not include any sites in Iraq where, as of August 2009, there were still nearly 300 American bases and outposts. Similarly, U.S. bases in Afghanistan — a significant percentage of the 400 foreign sites scattered across the country — are noticeably absent from the Pentagon inventory.
Counting the remaining bases in Iraq — as many as 50 are slated to be operating after President Barack Obamaâ€™s August 31, 2010, deadline to remove all U.S. â€œcombat troopsâ€ from the country — and those in Afghanistan, as well as black sites like Al-Udeid, the total number of U.S. bases overseas now must significantly exceed 1,000. Just exactly how many U.S. military bases (and allied facilities used by U.S. forces) are scattered across the globe may never be publicly known. What we do know — from the experience of bases in Germany, Italy, Japan, and South Korea — is that, once built, they have a tendency toward permanency that a cessation of hostilities, or even outright peace, has a way of not altering.
After nearly a decade of war, close to 700 U.S., allied, and Afghan military bases dot Afghanistan. Until now, however, they have existed as black sites known to few Americans outside the Pentagon. It remains to be seen, a decade into the future, how many of these sites will still be occupied by U.S. and allied troops…"
2010-05-17 11:17:45 UTC