The story is nominally “embargoed” until Thursday morning, but the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) is preparing to release letters from the State and Defense Departments detailing a $7.2 million waste on communications towers built in Afghanistan which nobody wanted or used.
The plan initially started in 2010 as an effort to enhance cell phone and TV broadcast reception in southern Afghanistan, and the initial limit set for the cost was $2 million. The plan was delayed when all the bids came in dramatically higher, and in August of 2011, the State Department cancelled the project. It was immediately uncancelled and they were eventually built in 2012 for $7.2 million.
By then, however, Afghan companies had already built a bunch of smaller, but perfectly servicable, towers and had no need for the US ones, which the State Department quickly dumped on the Pentagon as “surplus” equipment. The Pentagon didn’t really want them either, and complained about the costs of fuel to power the generators if the towers were ever used.
Not that they were. The six towers, four in Helmand, one in Kandahar, and one in Ghazni have effectively just sat there ever since, and the only time any of them “did” anything was in May, when a US helicopter careened into one and crashed, killing a NATO soldier and wounding three US soldiers.