In Kabul, the US is building a small city sans features of an urban paradise

Photo from US Embassy Kabul/Flickr

Photo from US Embassy Kabul/Flickr

Next month, the US State Department is scheduled to report on needs unmet by the ongoing $773-million Kabul embassy compound. Though it is about the size of a small city, it lacks some of the key attributes of an urban paradise: parking space (which the State Department will address) and big green public spaces.

The Department probably won’t look at the last because the compound is, in real terms, not a city and can’t expect to provide a green lung and cycle paths and a transport network and so on. Though it has its own utilities, US Embassy Kabul is not a city. It’s just a place you hunker down if you’re serving in Afghanistan because you aren’t allowed to go out into the city beyond.

But they’re building it like the Abbasid caliphs of yore. When the project began, in 2009, it was meant to run five years and the future of America’s footprint in Afghanistan was unclear.

Now, it’s been delayed to 2016 and will cost 24 per cent more, even as US coalition bases close and it becomes harder to monitor construction activities (for security reasons).

As Diplopundit, the anonymous blogger who monitors the realities of the American Foreign Service, writes, “And yet, Embassy Kabul’s permanent facilities—both older and newly-constructed office and apartment buildings—will eventually contain 1,487 desks and 819 beds.  The projected embassy staffing for 2015 is approximately 600 U.S. direct hires and 1,100 locally employed staff.  Without the military support, State would once more end up with potentially contracting its own security and life-support contractors as it did in Iraq.” (Click here to read the full blog.)

Jack Kerouac

“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life”
– Jack Kerouac