We have yet another example of how our government has thrown away billions of dollars in Iraq and Afghanistan without any discipline or repercussions for federal officials or contractors. The latest example is the “ghost hotel” of Kabul — a massive construction site for the Marriott Kabul that has never been completed but the taxpayer money has checked out without a trace. Just poof. It could be the perfect place for our ghost army to vacation at our ghost hotel.
I have previously written about the waste of billions of dollars by the government without any significant discipline of government officials. We have become accustomed to reports of unimaginable corruption and waste in Afghanistan from bags of money delivered to officials to constructing huge buildings immediately torn down to buying aircraft that cannot be used to buildings that seem to “melt away”. Then there was the unused business park. Much like our useless campaign against poppy production where we continued to spend billions because no one had the courage to end or change the program.
The latest example concerns the project from December 2006 by the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) to build a 209-room, five-star hotel and an apartment building across the street from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. This was to be the highlight of the American reconstruction of Afghanistan. It is now just a crumbling unused structure where millions disappeared. Some $85 million disappeared into the ghost hotel according to the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) which found “troubling management practices and lax oversight” at the site of the project. Ok, then who was fired? Of course, no one was fired. The public is not entitled to accountability for massive waste or corruption.
Special Inspector General John Sopko summed it up: “The Marriott Hotel Kabul is emblematic of our reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. Great ideas, tons of money, poor execution and no oversight create incredible opportunities for fraud.”
SIGAR inspectors found an abandoned worksite and structural cracks in the roof, damaged fireproofing on beams and columns, sections of walls that were demolished, uninstalled doors and windows and incomplete water and electrical systems: “As a result, the $85 million in loans is gone, the buildings were never completed and are uninhabitable, and the U.S. Embassy is now forced to provide security for the site at additional cost to U.S. taxpayers.”
Here is the Sigar letter and photos.
“In 2006 when OPIC started work on this project, the U.S. government was focused on economic development in Afghanistan to advance both its foreign policy and national security objectives. The hotel and residences projects were intended to host business leaders, foreign ministers and investors seeking to improve the long-term success of Afghanistan’s economy. The timing, location and purpose of this investment is fully consistent with OPIC’s mission. Since OPIC supports American investors operating in the world’s toughest markets, at times it must work with borrowers to navigate unique challenges. This project is no exception. OPIC continues to work to bring resolution to this project.”
It has been ten years and the work on the project is substandard. If that is “fully consistent with OPIC’s mission,” the problem is not the hotel.
In the meantime, the Eagles have a new version of their signature song:
On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair
Warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air
Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light
My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim
I had to stop for the night
There she stood in the doorway
I heard the mission bell
And I was thinking to myself
‘This could be heaven or this could be Hell
Then she lit up a candle and she showed me the way
There were voices down the corridor
I thought I heard them say
Welcome to the Hotel Kabul
Such a lovely place (such a lovely place)
Such a lovely face
Plenty of room at the Hotel Kabul
Any time of year (any time of year) you can find it here