WASHINGTON – The expansions of three air bases, each to the tune of $100 million, in southern and northern Afghanistan illustrate Pentagon plans to continue building multimillion-dollar facilities in that country to support increased U.S. military operations well into the future.

Despite growing public unhappiness with the Afghan war — and President Obama’s pledge that he will begin withdrawing troops in July 2011 — many of the installations being built in Afghanistan have extended time horizons.

None of the three projects is expected to be completed until the latter half of 2011. All of them are for use by U.S. forces, not their Afghan counterparts.

Overall, requests for $1.3 billion in additional fiscal 2011 funds for multiyear construction of military facilities in Afghanistan are pending before Congress. The House has approved the money, as has the Senate Appropriations Committee. The full Senate has yet to vote on the measure.

As well, the United States has already allocated some $5.3 billion to build facilities for the Afghan army and the national police over the next three to four years, according to a Pentagon news release this month.

For example, a $30 million contract was recently awarded to build a regional military training center in Mazar-e Sharif, according to Col. Mike Wehr, engineer director of the combined NATO training mission. That facility will be used to train Afghans in various military specialties, including engineering.

The three bases being expanded for U.S. use after 2011 reflect an expectation of continued combat operations, but they are just part of the expansion of U.S. facilities across the country.

North of Kabul, the Pentagon is planning to build a $100 million area at Shindand Air Base for Special Operations helicopters and unmanned intelligence and surveillance aircraft along with office, ground and maintenance facilities, plus barracks for 60 new personnel, according to a notice posted last week.

“The force increase in Afghanistan will require additional ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) and airlift aircraft at the base,” reads Pentagon material sent to Congress to justify the expense.

Another $100 million project is planned for the air field at Camp Dwyer, a Marine base in Helmand province, where expansion is needed to accommodate fixed-wing and helicopter aircraft.

Contractor proposals were also due last week for a third $100 million project, this one at Mazar-e Sharif, where increased operations and incoming supplies require more taxiways, parking and hangars.


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