October 18, 2009 in Nation/World

Building projects envision presence

Walter Pincus Washington Post

WASHINGTON – While the Obama administration weighs whether to send additional troops to Afghanistan, the U.S. military is spending billions of dollars on construction projects to ensure the country’s infrastructure can support American and coalition personnel in 2010 and years beyond.

The military has already spent roughly $2.7 billion on construction over the past three fiscal years. Now, 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.

At the main U.S. base in Afghanistan, Bagram, the military is planning to build a $30 million passenger terminal and cargo facility to handle the flow of troops. Officials say such projects are essential given the inadequate and dilapidated nature of the existing infrastructure.

Rear Adm. Hal Pittman, director of communications for U.S. Central Command, noted recently that many of the older bases were primarily made up of several small cement or mud buildings.

“Afghanistan is totally different from Iraq, where you had facilities that could be modernized,” he said.

The military is also spending hundreds of millions of dollars constructing facilities for the Afghan army and police.

Col. Thomas O’Donovan, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Afghanistan Engineer District, told reporters last March that his multibillion-dollar construction program is providing “underpinnings” for efforts at establishing security and stability across Afghanistan.

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