The most expensive gas station was built by U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. Interestingly, it is not known whether it is still working.
The cost of the station for gas-powered cars in Sheberghan was $43 million. It was built using American taxpayers’ money for the “reconstruction and stabilization of Afghanistan.” To open a similar gas station in neighboring Pakistan, you have to invest between $300,000 and $400,000. Why, then, did the one in Sheberghan cost over a hundred times more? The U.S. Department of Defense cannot explain it. A report on this case was made public yesterday in Washington by Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John F. Sopko, who conducted an internal Pentagon inspection.
Why Would an Afghan Convert His Car?
“Even considering security costs associated with construction … this level of expenditure [i.e., $42,718,730] appears … extreme,” says the inspector in the post-control conclusions.
There are many remaining mysteries around the station. For example, the U.S. Department of Defense is unable to answer the inspector’s question about whether it is still working (sic!). Since the military program for Afghanistan reconstruction was shut down six months ago, the activities of different reconstruction investments are not monitored.
However, the biggest paradox in this whole affair is the fact that the most expensive gas station in human history is completely unnecessary to anyone.
U.S. military planners thought it would be useful because Afghanistan has natural gas reserves and this is why Afghanistan should use the natural gas, instead of gasoline, to run cars. The snag is that it costs about $700 in Afghanistan to convert one car to run on [natural] gas. This is what the average Afghan makes a year, so the last thing an Afghan is going to think about is spending his annual salary on converting the engine of his car. Therefore, in Afghanistan, there are no gas-powered cars, with the exception of about 100 of these gas-powered cars which were converted using the Pentagon’s money (under the popularization of natural gas as gasoline).
The Station Outbid the Base for No One for $36 Million
The station in Sheberghan is another, although by far the most drastic, case of wasting U.S. taxpayer money in Afghanistan. The station even outbid the notorious military base Camp Leatherneck, built for $36 million, but U.S. soldiers have never lived there, nor did they ever want it. It was initially planned, because in 2010 President Obama decided to send tens of thousands of additional troops to Afghanistan to defeat the Taliban. But Gen. Richard Mills reported to Washington that the base was not necessary, because the Army had enough existing bases in Afghanistan. But before Mills’ opinion could reach decision-makers in the Pentagon, the money to build Camp Leatherneck was already granted. The military decided to build the base arguing that “if we have the funds, then let’s use them.” When it was finished, it was even more unnecessary, because U.S. soldiers had already begun to withdraw from Afghanistan.
These and other situations make one suspect that the Pentagon’s budget is too high. It currently accounts for nearly $600 billion a year, which means that what the U.S. spends on defense in the broad sense, and this category includes the most expensive gas station in the world in Afghanistan, is as much as Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, France, Japan, India, Germany and Israel spend on defense all together.
Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Affairs, is appalled by the matter of the gas station in Sheberghan.
“The Obama administration spends the American taxpayer’s hard-earned money with careless abandon,” he said. But the criticism only concerns this one case. Generally speaking, Republicans think that defense spending should be increased, not limited, and the cuts in the Pentagon’s budget, introduced by Obama, are supposedly a threat to the security of the country.