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A look at the Air Force budget for Afghanistan doesn’t sound to me like we’re planning on leaving any time soon, if ever:

* $65 million for a close-air support apron and an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance apron at Kandahar Air Base, Afghanistan.

* $61 million for a cargo helicopter apron and a tactical airlift apron at Kandahar.

* $13.8 million for a cargo terminal at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, according to Nick Turse at Tom Dispatch:

* In March, according to Pentagon documents, Contrack [International, an engineering and construction firm] was awarded a $23 million contract for “the design and construction of [an] Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance ramp, Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan.”

* In April, Contrack was awarded another $28 million contract for work on airfields — to be performed at unspecified sites in Afghanistan.

* In June, Florida-based IAP Worldwide Services was awarded a $21 million contract to enhance electrical power distribution at the U.S. Marines’ still-growing Forward Operating Base (FOB) Leatherneck in Helmand Province…”

* In October, according to government documents, the Army also began soliciting bids — in the $10-$25 million range — for construction of fuel storage and distribution facilities at FOB Dwyer. These…are not scheduled to be completed until sometime in 2011.

* In October, defense contractor AECOM Technology signed a $78 million 6-month extension contract with the Army to “provide general-support maintenance as well as the operation of maintenance facilities, living quarters and offices at two U.S. military bases as well as forward operating bases and satellite locations” in Afghanistan.

* In July 2009, [Fluor]  was awarded a $1.5 billion contract for…services in Afghanistan…

* In July… DynCorp International along with partners CH2M Hill and Taos Industries received a one year $643.5 million order to “provide existing bases within the Afghanistan South AOR [area of responsibility] with operations and maintenance support, including but not limited to: facilities management, electrical power, water, sewage and waste management, laundry operations, food services and transportation motor pool operations”…With an eye to the future, the Pentagon has included four one-year options in the contract which, if taken up, would be worth an estimated $5.8 billion.

Turse sees two options. Either:

“…the U.S. military’s building boom in that country suggests that, in the ninth year of the Afghan War, the Pentagon has plans for a far longer-term, if not near-permanent, garrisoning of the country, no matter what course Washington may decide upon.”

Or:

“…it suggests that the Pentagon is willing to waste taxpayer money (which might have shored up sagging infrastructure in the U.S. and created a plethora of jobs) on what will sooner or later be abandoned runways, landing zones and forward operating bases.”

I’m betting on the former rather than the latter.

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