As the war in Afghanistan enters its twilight hours, the diplomatic hub of U.S. efforts in Afghanistan, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, is only getting bigger and more expensive. Construction costs for a proposed annex have not only increased by 20 percent, but its completion has been delayed for another two years
A U.S. Government and Accountability Office report released Tuesday indicates that the proposed expansion of the embassy was supposed to be completed by the end of summer 2014 but has been pushed back to July 2016, while the original cost of the two contracts to modify the embassy has leapt from $625.4 million to $773.9 million.
The contracts were awarded in 2009 and 2010 respectively, with the aim of building a number of structures and offices on the embassy grounds. The new buildings will contain 1,237 desks and 661 beds. Both the number of additional desks and beds has been adjusted throughout the construction process to accommodate “increases in numbers and changes in composition of embassy staffing requirements.”
According to the report, projected staffing levels for the embassy in 2015 is around 600 U.S. personnel and 1,100 locally employed staff.
The report indicated that the delays and excessive costs were due in part to contractor delays, working on the facility in a “conflict environment” and delays from shipping routes that crossed through Pakistan.
As the war winds down, the State Department is unsure how the embassy will sustain itself with supplies like food, water and fuel. If the State Department turns to local contractors, it will have to reevaluate the facility’s staff composition and facility usage.
The embassy was reopened in 2002 after Afghan and coalition forces routed the Taliban, and has seen a significant increase in personnel and subsequent draw-down in the years since.