Some things may be cheap in Afghanistan. Renting land anywhere near the U.S. Embassy in Kabul apparently is not. Seems the embassy is leasing a 4.8-acre property from an Afghan landlord to build a 45-meter-wide access road during new construction at the embassy. Later, the land could provide additional access to the expanded embassy compound.
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Okay, so how much is this costing us? The rent is $859,440 a year, the embassy said in a recent letter to the Senate. That comes out to just under $4.50 a square foot. "In addition to the rent, the lease provides for payment of $550,000 as compensation for buildings and improvements" on an adjacent site already taken over by the embassy and a "one-time payment of $150,000 for the demolition and removal of a small mosque" on the new parcel, which is "the cost for the landlord to rebuild the mosque elsewhere."
This is a five-year lease, renewable "automatically and indefinitely" unless the U.S. government cancels. Nine hundred grand to lease the land? Was this a talking point that President Obama forgot to raise with President Karzai the other day?
I have two things to say about that, one of them significant and one of them trivial.
First, the trivial. Mr. Kamen's math is wrong. Since there are 43,560 square feet in an acre, the cost per square foot to lease a 4.8-acre parcel at $859,440 is $4.11, not $4.50. So there!
Secondly, that sounds like a good price for land in a capital city. I haven't researched other land leases in Kabul - and neither has Mr. Kamen, I'm sure - but I have looked up the asking prices for parcels of land in Washington DC. Here's one I picked pretty much at random, a small parcel on Rhode Island Avenue that is for lease at $5.50 per square foot per year. It even has an existing building that the landlord will remove for the new tenant, just like the parcel in Kabul.
I guess the WaPo owes an apology to U.S. Embassy Kabul, or, more likely, to the real estate people in the Office of Overseas Buildings. Those guys can bargain like rug merchants!