The Corner

National Security & Defense

Our $335 Million Power Plant Outside Kabul Is Operating at 2% Capacity

From the last Morning Jolt of the week, a respite from all the depressing news at home with some depressing news abroad:

Our $335 Million Power Plant Outside Kabul Is Operating at 2% Capacity

You may remember my intermittent interest in the work of John F. Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction and his office’s frequently depressing reports on how little our money — hundreds of billions upon hundreds of billions, perhaps approaching $1 trillion since 2001 — has changed Afghanistan.

The SIGAR just published an inquiry into the Tarakhil Power Plant outside of Kabul.

The U.S. Agency for International Development invested $335 million in the plant, and yet there are reports of electrical shortages in Kabul following avalanches in northern Afghanistan in February 2015. Despite the usual cost overruns and problems during construction, the power plant was ultimately handed over to the Afghan government in June 2010.

Last year, the USAID Office of Inspector General completed a review assessing the power plant, concluding that the power plant is severely underused, operating at just 2.2 percent of power production capacity, and that the Afghan national power utility could not afford to operate the power plant, with an estimated $245 million per year needed for the fuel alone.

After that embarrassing review, USAID stated that corrective measures to assist the Afghan government and national power utility in operating the power plant would be implemented no later than December 31, 2014. But two months later, Afghanistan suffered a series of avalanches which triggered blackouts and lack of power throughout Kabul.

John F. Sopko wrote to USAID, “While I commend USAID on its commitment to take corrective action to address the OIG findings, the blackouts and lack of power throughout Kabul resulting from the avalanches raises questions regarding the efficacy of those actions and the commitment and ability of the Afghan government to operate the Tarakhil Power Plant as needed or when absolutely necessary.”

“Hard at work?” “Nah, hardly working!”

 

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