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Firstpost, June 29, 2013

US scraps 7 bn USD worth of arms in Afghanistan

The US military has 25 billion USD worth of equipment deployed with personnel in Afghanistan and is shipping back no more than 76 percent at a cost of 2 billion USD

By Uttara Choudhury

Up against a tight withdrawal deadline, the US has destroyed over 170 million pounds worth of vehicles and military equipment as it scrambles to pull away from the front lines in Afghanistan next year. The wastefulness inherent in this decision is truly shocking.

According to The Washington Post military planners have determined that they will not ship back more than $7 billion worth of equipment — about 20 percent of what the US military has in Afghanistan — because it is no longer needed or would be too costly to ship back to the US.

Instead of scrapping perfectly good military hardware it would make sense for the US to bequeath it to the weak Afghan government and its fledgling military. But the Post reported the Pentagon cannot donate a large share to the Afghan government because of complicated rules governing equipment donations to other countries, and there is concern that Afghanistan’s military wouldn’t be able to maintain the sophisticated hardware.

Therefore, much of the US military equipment will continue to be shredded, cut and crushed to be sold for pennies per pound on the Afghan scrap market. The destruction of tons of equipment has raised sharp questions in Afghanistan and the US about whether the Pentagon’s approach is fiscally responsible.

U.S. soldiers secure the area next to a damaged U.S. mine resistant, ambush protected vehicle (MRAP), after a roadside bomb explosion during an operation
U.S. soldiers secure the area next to a damaged U.S. mine resistant, ambush protected vehicle (MRAP), after a roadside bomb explosion during an operation in the area of Al-leg, some 40 miles south of Baghdad, Iraq on March 7, 2008. (Photo: AP)

New York Congressman Dana Rohrabacher shot off a letter this week to US Secretary of State John Kerry suggesting some gear should be sold to allied nations such as India.

“We have allies and friends in Uzbekistan and India who have very real security concerns and could put this equipment to good use. They should buy the equipment and the training that goes along with it which should be profitable to us both. It makes more sense for the American tax payer and serves our country’s interests by supporting nations who will come under increased threat from radical Islam after 2014,” Rohrabacher wrote in a letter to the State Department.

“Such a spectacle only gives the public the impression that our withdrawal is being conducted in an irresponsible manner,” added Rohrabacher.

Hypothetically speaking, if India were interested in the equipment Pentagon policy requires that allied nations seeking to take ownership of excess US equipment travel to Afghanistan to pick it up. Of course, India is a major global arms buyer and the Pentagon is sensitive to the fact that sales for the US defense industry could suffer if tons of used equipment was unloaded on the market at vastly reduced prices. According to the Congressional Research Service’s annual survey of global arms sales, Saudi Arabia was the biggest arms buyer among developing countries, concluding $33.7 billion in weapons deals in 2011, followed by India with purchases of $6.9 billion and the United Arab Emirates with $4.5 billion.

The most contentious part of scrapping equipment in Afghanistan involves the disposal of Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles that protected US soldiers from the threat of roadside bombs in Afghanistan.

“In Afghanistan, the military has labeled about 2,000 of its roughly 11,000 MRAPs “excess.” About 9,000 will be shipped to the United States and US military bases in Kuwait and elsewhere, but the majority of the unwanted vehicles — which cost about $1 million each — will probably be shredded,” reported The Washington Post.

In addition to lighter, more mobile MRAPs, the US Army relies on heavier $4 million eight-wheeled armoured Strykers, which can withstand rocket-propelled grenades.

According to the paper, the US military base in Kandahar is a beehive of activity with contract workers wearing fireproof suits and masks, using special blowtorches to rip up hulking MRAP vehicles built to withstand deadly blasts. It takes nearly 12 hours to tear apart each MRAP.

The US military has $25 billion worth of equipment deployed with personnel in Afghanistan and is shipping back no more than 76 percent at a cost of $2 billion.

Worryingly for India, after nearly a dozen years of debilitating war and unspectacular gains, President Barack Obama has speeded up the handover of combat operations in Afghanistan to Afghan forces, raising the prospect of an accelerated US withdrawal from Kabul even before the American mission formally ends there in 2014. US troops in Afghanistan are currently playing a “support role,” focusing on training while still fighting when necessary.

Category: US-NATO - Views: 7925