Oversight report: Construction of barracks for growing Afghan army delayed

KABUL (AP) — Construction of two barracks to house 5,800 soldiers in the growing Afghan army are months behind schedule and even after they're built, the Afghan government won't have the money to maintain them, a report issued Friday by the U.S. inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction said.

U.S. strategy in Afghanistan is linked to shoring up the Afghan security forces so they can take responsibility for securing their own nation after international forces leave. Delays and construction problems uncovered at two army garrisons being built in Kunduz and Laghman provinces undermine that strategy.

The Afghan National Army is slated to grow 52 percent from nearly 113,000 to 171,600 by October 2011. The Afghan National Police is to expand its ranks by about 35 percent from nearly 100,000 to 134,000 in the next 17 months.

An estimated 1,800 Afghan soldiers are to live and train in a $72.8 million army garrison being built in Kunduz province in northern Afghanistan.

An initial construction phase to build barracks, storage areas, a dining room and compound for embedded U.S. trainers is 20 months behind schedule, according to the report by the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. A second phase to construct more barracks, a clinic and detention facility is more than a year behind schedule.

According to the report, the Afghan government does not have the capacity to sustain the Kunduz garrison or other Afghan National Security Force facilities once they are completed.

"With the increase in the size and capabilities of the Afghan national security forces comes considerable concern about the ability of the government of Afghanistan to sustain the forces," the report said. "The government of Afghanistan will be dependent upon considerable international support for the foreseeable future, although efforts continue to increase the Afghan budget revenue."

The U.S. has paid more than $51 million toward the project, which is being managed by DynCorp International LLC, based in Falls Church, Virginia.

Inspectors have identified construction problems, including irregular welds on roof trusses. "A heavy load could cause the trusses to fail and the roof to sag or collapse," the report said.

Moreover, inspectors observed severe settling of the soil under several structures following a rainfall in December 2009. "The settling has rendered several structures unusable, including a guard tower, and adjacent stone wall and a road bed," the report said.

The report said a $128.8 million garrison being constructed in Laghman province in eastern Afghanistan, is generally well built, but also won't be finished on time.

Two phases of the project, which include the construction of barracks for 4,000 soldiers, are between 14 months to 2 years behind schedule, the report said. The two phases also are being managed by DynCorp. Inspectors also found poor flood-control measures, inadequate grading, a deteriorating bridge and potential problems securing a weapons training range.