My brother-in-law (Seabees, retired) told me that when we withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan, we are going to be leaving behind or destroying much of the military equipment our troops had been using, since it is too expensive to bring back and there won’t be that much use for it anymore.
Well, now it’s happening. We are putting billions of dollars worth of equipment–including trucks and armored vehicles–into giant metal shredders. Other stuff we are selling to the Afghanis at pennies on the dollar or giving it away free to foreign governments willing to haul it away.
As the Pentagon’s effort to dismantle its massive wartime infrastructure kicks into high gear, defense personnel are jettisoning materiel on an industrial scale. Since last year, Pentagon contractors in Afghanistan have used shredding machines to turn vehicles, generators, housing containers, furniture and other items into scrap.
During that period, they have destroyed more than 643 million pounds of equipment — the equivalent of pulverizing the Titanic seven times. By comparison, the Pentagon scrapped 563 million pounds during the last eight years of the Iraq war.
The Defense Department also is selling some unneeded, functional items at auction to Afghan businessmen for pennies on the dollar — partly in response to criticism that there are more sensible alternatives to scrapping. . . .
When the U.S. military drew up plans for the withdrawal here, officials estimated the price of the drawdown would range from $5 billion to $7 billion. Estevez said the most recent projections indicate that it is likely to cost $6 billion.That is not to say all aspects of the withdrawal have been easy or predictable. When the military began moving items in bulk out of Afghanistan in 2013, shipping containers by land through the Pakistani border was the preferred alternative, much cheaper than using cargo planes. In recent months, though, the cost of the two has largely equalized as customs tariffs and insecure roads have made ground shipments costlier.
Those challenges have made the shredding of equipment that was acquired for several billion dollars a crucial part of the drawdown. Many Afghans are nervous about the fate of their impoverished country in the post-American era, and it hasn’t always been an easy process to explain.
“They should give this stuff to us,” protested Hajji Nibil, 32, who owns a construction equipment shop in Kabul and is among the scores of Afghan businessmen whose work for the U.S. military has dried up as the force has shrunk. “All this is stuff we could use.” . . .
The Pentagon has faced some criticism over its destruction of iconic mine-resistant ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicles, the hulking, heavily armored trucks that were rushed into Iraq and Afghanistan as the threat of powerful roadside bombs escalated.
The Defense Department offered excess MRAPs to allied nations at no cost, provided they could arrange to ship them out of Afghanistan. Only Croatia has taken the department up on the offer, acquiring 162. Officials said that if no more such deals are struck between now and the end of the year, they will have to shred several hundred of the vehicles.