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US-Built Afghan Gas Station Swallowed 86-Times More Money than It Normally Should Have

CNG Station in Afghanistan 1 photo
Photo: SIGAR
With a recent natural gas deposit found near the Afghan city of Sheberghan, the Task Force for Stability and Business Operations (TFBSO) thought it was a good idea to build a gas station near the site.
Nothing fishy until now. The TFBSO is a division of the Pentagon that was first devised to help rebuild Iraq after the devastating conflict, but later its actions were extended into Afghanistan as well. The gas station in question was actually a CNG (compressed natural gas) facility, meant to convince the local population that CNG can be a very good fuel for Afghan cars.

That sounds like a clever plan: use local resources to satisfy local needs. Only that, given the current situation in Afghanistan, transporting fuel safely across the country is a very risky business, while building a network of pipes would take a colossal investment - about a billion dollars from the gas field to the country’s capital, Kabul. The pilot CNG station is quickly starting to lose its clever investment status.

Especially when the sum of money invested in building and operating the station is downright scary - and to be more exact, we’re talking about $42,718,739 of the US contributor’s hard earned money. Taken separately, that sounds like crazy high. It’s hard to know how complicated it is to build something in a country as remote as Afghanistan, right?

That excuse is quickly blown away by the little fact that a similar station built in the neighboring country of Pakistan cost - get ready for this - $500,000. Yes, all the zeroes are in the right place. Nearly 86 times less than the CNG station built by TFBSO.

This is fishier than fishes fishing

The funny thing, though - because you have to be amused by all this, otherwise you risk losing your mind - is that nobody can come up with an explanation. Special Inspector-General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John F. Sopko, upon analyzing the case, said that “One of the most troubling aspects of this project is that the Department of Defense claims that it is unable to provide an explanation for the high cost of the project or to answer any other questions concerning its planning, implementation, or outcome.

With the TFBSO closing down in March, the trail has now gone cold and the Department of Defense is saying it can’t provide any further information since they “no longer have the personnel expertise” to search through the documentation. If this isn’t a “yeah, right” moment, then I don’t know what is.

There is an actual image of the CNG station included in Sopko’s report and, needless to say, it doesn’t look like a $43 million dollar construction. Actually, it looks as mundane as you’d expect from a gas station.

Where has that money gone? Well, it’s safe to assume we will never know, because if the military wants to cover something up, only an inside whistleblower can shed any kind of light on the whole shenanigan. And they usually risk their freedom for something more important than a few million dollars.
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About the author: Vlad Mitrache
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"Boy meets car, boy loves car, boy gets journalism degree and starts job writing and editing at a car magazine" - 5/5. (Vlad Mitrache if he was a movie)
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