The U.S. Defense Department gave away nearly $1 billion of property to the Afghan government over the course of five years as the Pentagon worked to shrink its footprint in the war-ravaged country, a new government watchdog fact sheet states.
Between January 2010 and February 2015, the agency donated $858 million worth of property under the Foreign Excess Real Property (FERP) program -- mostly in the form of hundreds of bases that ranged from small outposts to large bases that can’t be sold to the government in Kabul, according to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). Real property is defined as “land, structures and facilities, improvements, fixtures, and related personal property.”
Of the 715 bases the U.S. used over the course of the war, 391 were turned over to the Afghan government, with the lion’s share — 57 percent — transferred to the National Army, SIGAR found. The Afghan National Police received 30 percent of the donated bases, while others were given to offices within the country’s Defense and Interior ministries.
The U.S. can’t sell excess real estate to Kabul and if a site isn’t transferred to another federal agency or office within the military it can be abandoned, deconstructed or charitably donated, SIGAR states.
The military can decide to dismantle a base if it’s in dangers of falling into enemy hands, though sometimes it makes more fiscal sense to transfer it.
And the U.S. doesn’t own the market on goodwill, according to SIGAR. When NATO formally ended its mission in volatile Helmand province, around $236 million worth of property was given to the Afghan government, while only $39 million worth was disassembled.
The Pentagon did close 219 of its bases, the fact sheet states, and the total depreciated value of bases that once supported U.S. troops but that Washington has since abandoned or destroyed amounts to about $48 million.
Last year President Obama scrapped his plan to reduce the military footprint in the country to a nominal embassy presence in Kabul by the end of 2016.
Instead, the administration will keep 5,500 troops and a small number of bases – SIGAR says 12 U.S.-operated bases remain open – into 2017 to continue training and providing support to Afghan security forces.