US spends $43 million on gas station in Afghanistan

US special inspector says US built expensive gas station in northern Afghanistan and was not able to provide explanation behind cost

Photo by: SIGAR
Photo by: SIGAR

Petrol station in Sheberghan, Afghanistan that cost American taxpayers $43M

Head of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said on Monday that the Pentagon has spent $43 million on the world’s “probably” most expensive gas station and has not been able to explain why it costed so much.

American taxpayer dollars have been spent on the construction of the $43 million gas station between 2011 and 2014.

However, Central Asian Engineering said that in 2011 that building such a natural gas station in Afghanistan would cost $3 million.

Special Inspector John Sopko said that "even considering security costs associated with construction and operation in Afghanistan, this level of expenditure appears gratuitous and extreme," in newly released SIGAR report on the station.

According to the report, the overall cost, including the additional initial operations of the station shouldn’t have been more than $500,000 as more than $12 million was slated for those operations.

The gas station project was ran by the Task Force for Business and Stability Operations (TFBSO), the division of US Department of Defense - established in 2006 following, the US intervention to Iraq in 2003 to revitalize the country’s economy. In 2009, it was directed to Afghanistan as US troops withdrew from war-torn Iraq. Since then, the division has been working in Afghanistan, focusing on foreign investment, corporate development, procurement and reform of the banking sector.

Sopko said in his letter that TFBSO failed to conduct a feasible study for the project, aimed to show viability of Afghanistan’s natural gas reserves.

“If TFBSO had conducted a feasibility study of the project, the Task Force might have noted that Afghanistan lacks the natural gas transmission and local distribution infrastructure necessary to support a viable market for CNG vehicles,” he said.

The US has intervened to Afghanistan in 2001, to provide economic stability in the country, and removing the Taliban from power. However, according to a report released in October by the UN, as of 2015 the Taliban has more territory in Afghanistan than compared to 2001.

In 2002, Washington spared nearly $110 billion over the reconstruction of Afghanistan, as the Taliban was toppled down by US forces.

SIGAR cited the compressed natural gas fuelling station which spent $43 million on its construction in Afghanistan was not in condition to operate, since claims state that the licence to operate expired in 2014.

US Senator for Missouri, Claire McCaskill, also asked the Pentagon to obtain information about the project. She said that "it’s hard to imagine a more outrageous waste of money than building an alternative fuel station in a war-torn country that costs more than 8,000 percent more than it should, and is too dangerous for a watchdog to verify whether it is even operational.”

TRTWorld and agencies