In late De­cem­ber, the lot was just a big blank: a few bur­gundy metal ship­ping con­tain­ers sit­ting in an ex­panse of crushed eggshell-col­ored gravel in­side a ra­zor-wire-topped fence.  The Amer­i­can mil­i­tary in Afghanistan doesn’t want to talk about it, but one day soon, it will be a new hub for the Amer­i­can drone war in the Greater Mid­dle East.

Next year, that empty lot will be a two-story con­crete in­tel­li­gence fa­cil­ity for Amer­ica’s drone war, brightly lit and filled with pow­er­ful com­put­ers kept in cli­mate-con­trolled com­fort in a coun­try where most of the pop­u­la­tion has no ac­cess to elec­tric­ity.  It will boast al­most 7,000 square feet of of­fices, brief­ing and con­fer­ence rooms, and a large “pro­cess­ing, ex­ploita­tion, and dis­sem­i­na­tion” op­er­a­tions cen­ter — and, of course, it will be built with Amer­i­can tax dol­lars.

Nor is it an anom­aly.  De­spite all the talk of draw­downs and with­drawals, there has been a years-long build­ing boom in Afghanistan that shows lit­tle sign of abat­ing.  In early 2010, the U.S.-led In­ter­na­tional Se­cu­rity As­sis­tance Force (ISAF) had nearly 400 bases in Afghanistan.  Today, Lieu­tenant Lau­ren Rago of ISAF pub­lic af­fairs tells TomDis­patch, the num­ber tops 450.

The hush-hush, high-tech, su­per-se­cure fa­cil­ity at the mas­sive air base in Kan­da­har is just one of many build­ing pro­jects the U.S. mil­i­tary cur­rently has planned or un­der­way in Afghanistan.  While some U.S. bases are in­deed clos­ing up shop or being trans­ferred to the Afghan gov­ern­ment, and there’s talk of com­bat op­er­a­tions slow­ing or end­ing next year, as well as a with­drawal of Amer­i­can com­bat forces from Afghanistan by 2014, the U.S. mil­i­tary is still prepar­ing for a much longer haul at mega-bases like Kan­da­har and Bagram air­fields. The same is true even of some smaller camps, for­ward op­er­at­ing bases (FOBs), and com­bat out­posts (COPs) scat­tered through the coun­try’s back­lands.  “Bagram is going through a sig­nif­i­cant tran­si­tion dur­ing the next year to two years,” Air Force Lieu­tenant Colonel Daniel Gerdes of the U.S. Army Corps of En­gi­neers’ Bagram Of­fice re­cently toldFree­dom Builder, a Corps of En­gi­neers pub­li­ca­tion.  “We’re tran­si­tion­ing… into a long-term, five-year, 10-year vi­sion for the base.”

via 450 Bases and It’s Not Over Yet | NationofChange.