USD6.5m spent on six unused towers

18 Sep 2014

US watchdog the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction has criticised the State Department and the Department of Defence (DoD) for funding six telecom towers which have not been used and have led to one fatality, the Washington Times writes. In a note to US Secretary of State John Kerry, inspector general John Sopko pointed out that the US had spent USD6.5 million on the towers, despite notice from local telcos that they would not connect to the infrastructure due to security concerns – having received repeated threats from the Taliban – and that the DoD did not want to keep them due to the high cost of fuel to power the towers’ generators. Nevertheless, the State Department had forged ahead with the construction of the towers, with a view to expanding telecommunication services ‘to the civilian Afghan population in underserved and strategically important provinces,’ ranking the infrastructure as one of the agency’s ‘highest strategic communication priorities.’ Having been turned down by the DoD and local telcos, the state department considered handing over the towers to the Afghan government but decided against such action on the basis that Afghanistan continues ‘to struggle with lacking resources and technical capacity to operate and maintain these towers.’ Making matters worse, the towers were not equipped properly for air-traffic safety and a helicopter collision with one of the towers led to the death of an international security force soldier.