November 9, 2009
[efoods]In recent weeks, President Obama has been contemplating the future of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan. He has also been touting the effects of his policies at home, reporting that this year’s Recovery Act not only saved jobs, but also was “the largest investment in infrastructure since [President Dwight] Eisenhower built the Interstate Highway System in the 1950s.” At the same time, another much less publicized U.S.-taxpayer-funded infrastructure boom has been underway. This one in Afghanistan.
While Washington has put modest funding into civilian projects in Afghanistan this year — ranging from small-scale power plants to “public latrines” to a meat market — the real construction boom is military in nature. The Pentagon has been funneling stimulus-sized sums of money to defense contractors to markedly boost its military infrastructure in that country.
In fiscal year 2009, for example, the civilian U.S. Agency for International Development awarded $20 million in contracts for work in Afghanistan, while the U.S. Army alone awarded $2.2 billion — $834 million of it for construction projects. In fact, according to Walter Pincus of the Washington Post, the Pentagon has spent “roughly $2.7 billion on construction over the past three fiscal years” in that country and, “if its request is approved as part of the fiscal 2010 defense appropriations bill, it would spend another $1.3 billion on more than 100 projects at 40 sites across the country, according to a Senate report on the legislation.”