The Billion-Pound Base: Dismantling Camp Bastion, Channel 4, review: It cost £50m to build Camp Bastion in 2006 and £300m to destroy it

The documentary’s most amusing and unnerving scenes came during the Afghan delegation tour

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The Independent Culture

The Ned Flanders of the British Army is Lt Col Laurence Quinn, a cheery infrastructure officer who had a star-making turn in tonight’s Channel 4 documentary The Billion-Pound Base: Dismantling Camp Bastion.

As the forces radio station blasted out motivational hits (“Wake up Boo!” by The Boo Radleys, “We Built This City” by Starship), it was Quinn’s job to ensure the whole Reading-sized encampment was packed up and shipped out. No detail was too small for his attention, including some pigeons nesting in the rafters of an indoor training facility. “Can we leave the door open for them?” he asked his deputy, Captain Doug Barkley. “No, I’m gonna lock it, Sir” said Barkley, gently but firmly. “They’ll get out somehow, they’ll be fine.”

Quinn did a great job, but was it a job which needed doing? His opposite number in the Afghan army didn’t think so. The documentary’s most amusing and unnerving scenes came during the Afghan delegation tour, as Quinn pointed out what would leave before the handover, and what would remain behind. There’d be no radars or radios, but they would be leaving behind the VIP block as a token of goodwill, replete with some culturally insensitive prayer mats. The Afghan commander grumbled about his stinginess. “Should I translate that?” asked his aid. “No, say something different. Say you have spent a lot here, thank you.”

Given it cost £50m to build Camp Bastion in 2006 and £300m to destroy it again eight years later, the Afghans may have had a point.

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