MAZAR-E SHARIF, Afghanistan – US officials abandoned plans to open a consulate in northern Afghanistan over security concerns -- despite spending more than $80 million on the site, The Washington Post reported Sunday.
Significant security problems at the proposed compound in Mazar-e Sharif were overlooked and officials sought waivers to strict State Department regulations to press ahead with the plans.
An assessment by the US Embassy in Kabul, which was seen by the Post, revealed the proposed compound would be vulnerable to a car bombing because it relied on local building techniques.
In March 2009, then US envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, lobbied for a consulate to be established in Mazar-e Sharif within 60 days, the assessment said. The city was thought relatively safe as it was some distance from the Taliban strongholds in the south.
The memo, by acting management counselor Martin Kelly, said, "At the time, [Holbrooke] pushed hard to identify property and stand up an interim consulate, on a very tight timeline, to signal our commitment to the Afghan people."
The US government plans to open four consulates in the country as it steps down involvement by 2014. They include consulates in Kandahar, Jalalabad and Herat.