Great news: US scrapping $7 billion of military equipment in Afghanistan

posted at 10:01 am on June 20, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

The end of a war brings its own logistical challenges.  Getting the troops home from the theater of war takes plenty of planning, especially in an environment still significantly unsecure, as in Afghanistan (and in Iraq, for that matter), but the question of retrieving heavy equipment is even more complicated.  With the drawdown date set by Barack Obama approaching, the Pentagon has decided to scrap billions of dollars in equipment rather than deal with the logistical and economic consequences of retrieval:

Facing a tight withdrawal deadline and tough terrain, the U.S. military has destroyed more than 170 million pounds worth of vehicles and other military equipment as it rushes to wind down its role in the Afghanistan war by the end of 2014.

The massive disposal effort, which U.S. military officials call unprecedented, has unfolded largely out of sight amid an ongoing debate inside the Pentagon about what to do with the heaps of equipment that won’t be returning home. Military planners have determined that they will not ship back more than $7 billion worth of equipment — about 20 percent of what the U.S. military has in Afghanistan — because it is no longer needed or would be too costly to ship back home.

That has left the Pentagon in a quandary about what to do with the items. Bequeathing a large share to the Afghan government would be challenging because of complicated rules governing equipment donations to other countries, and there is concern that Afghanistan’s fledgling forces would be unable to maintain it. Some gear may be sold or donated to allied nations, but few are likely to be able to retrieve it from the war zone.

Therefore, much of it will continue to be shredded, cut and crushed to be sold for pennies per pound on the Afghan scrap market — a process that reflects a presumptive end to an era of protracted ground wars. The destruction of tons of equipment is all but certain to raise sharp questions in Afghanistan and the United States about whether the Pentagon’s approach is fiscally responsible and whether it should find ways to leave a greater share to the Afghans.

This may well be the best policy, at least economically speaking, but it looks bad.  The cost of bringing back heavy equipment is obviously going to be enormous, and not just because of the space needed for transport back to the US.  In Iraq, we had a fairly direct option in lines of communication to transport such equipment, through the port at Umm Qasr.  Afghanistan is not only a landlocked country, which means that everything ships by air, but even those lines of communication are complicated.  The cost of getting out on this timetable will be that much more expensive.

However, the optics of the decision could be costly, too.  If we were leaving as a successful pacification/occupation force, we would have allowed ourselves plenty of time to retrieve our equipment despite the logistical challenges that presents.  The need to have that heavy equipment on the ground in an accelerated withdrawal schedule points to the fact that we have not in fact succeeded in Afghanistan in anything other than achieving a stalemate after twelve years of fighting.

We wouldn’t be the first world power to end up leaving under those circumstances, and we can argue that we did better than the Russians and the colonial British in leaving on our own terms.  The haste of our exit, as exemplified by our abandonment of billions in military resources, makes that argument a little tougher to make, and in that region, the image of weakness is not a good impression to make.

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We should have left Afghanistan in the fall of 2004. I said so then.

Worse military venture – for the U.S. – in 100 years.

I love him – but I put this on the shoulders of GW.

jake-the-goose on June 20, 2013 at 10:06 AM

Destruction: what Obama does best

faraway on June 20, 2013 at 10:07 AM

That would fall under the wastefraudandabuse that Obama was going to ferret out, wouldn’t it?

originalpechanga on June 20, 2013 at 10:08 AM

Hey, 3 or 4 of these and you’re talking some real money…

ROCnPhilly on June 20, 2013 at 10:08 AM

So now Afghanistan is now be laced with destoyed equipment of US military might. Where as before, it was laced with destroyed Soviet equipment.

Afghanistan seems to represent the graveyard of former super powers.

b1jetmech on June 20, 2013 at 10:10 AM

Afghanistan seems to represent the graveyard of former super powers.

b1jetmech on June 20, 2013 at 10:10 AM

Maybe Hertz should buy this stuff and rent it out to the next poor sap.

faraway on June 20, 2013 at 10:11 AM

Facing a tight withdrawal deadline and tough terrain, the U.S. military has destroyed more than 170 million pounds worth of vehicles and other military equipment as it rushes to wind down its role in the Afghanistan war by the end of 2014.
===================================================

If they were to arrange all the vechicles in a battle formation,
and then conducted various Nuclear Tests,with LIVE Nuke Weapons
of course,in weapons education,

it could be a win/win!!!

(Sarc)

canopfor on June 20, 2013 at 10:16 AM

Maybe Hertz should buy this stuff and rent it out to the next poor sap.

faraway on June 20, 2013 at 10:11 AM

Rather do that then see it all go to waste.

Hopefully they remember to remove classified information/components before giving it to the local Afghans.

b1jetmech on June 20, 2013 at 10:17 AM

Won’t this equipment be needed for our upcoming adventure in Syria?
//

Bitter Clinger on June 20, 2013 at 10:17 AM

On the brightside,they’ll be replaced,and will spur JOB CREATION!

Er wait,its the Anti-Military Obama Asministration!

Gawd,what was I thinking!

(Sarc)

canopfor on June 20, 2013 at 10:20 AM

Bitter Clinger on June 20, 2013 at 10:17 AM

Makes sense to simply drive all that equipment directly to Damascus…have to destroy Iran on the way…but, what the hey.

coldwarrior on June 20, 2013 at 10:20 AM

This isn’t a new approach. My cousin , who was a World WWII veteran told us they spent weeks shoveling sugar from ships into the ocean, as the war wound down, while sugar rationing affected the amount a civilian could buy. Likewise, at least some of our war dogs in Viet Nam were just abandoned, as items of war, rather than being brought back.

a capella on June 20, 2013 at 10:20 AM

Hey, spending 7 billion dollars is a party of life.

Axeman on June 20, 2013 at 10:20 AM

Something to bear in mind: This will be forgotten, and we’ve done it many times (much of Kuwait is a boneyard of equipment waiting to be destroyed) but the jobs provided to make new equipment will be seen as an advantage here stateside.

Also, a great deal of equipment is, for want of a better term, archaic. M998 and M1114 humvees are simply not longer suitable for combat duty, but there are still hundreds of them on FOBs and other places where they are used for transportation and small logistical jobs. But there’s no reason to keep them or ship them back to the States.

Stuff like this is what keeps the vaunted and hated “military industrial complex” running.

Sgt Steve on June 20, 2013 at 10:21 AM

I wouldn’t doubt it if the bad optics were the intent of this scrapping policy. Along with the sequestration cuts, the repeal of don’t ask, don’t tell and the institutional refusal to prosecute sexual assaults in the military – against both females and males – it all adds up to one continuous effort to demoralize and dismantle our military.

abobo on June 20, 2013 at 10:21 AM

This is perfectly normal. We leave stuff all the time as it costs more to ship back than it does to leave it.

It also means that the Army now has to buy a bunch more stuff when it gets back to replace what was left/ destroyed.
It’s a win/win.

LincolntheHun on June 20, 2013 at 10:22 AM

Maybe Hertz should buy this stuff and rent it out to the next poor sap.

faraway on June 20, 2013 at 10:11 AM

faraway:Lol-:O

canopfor on June 20, 2013 at 10:22 AM

We did do the same thing at the end of WWII.

rbj on June 20, 2013 at 10:23 AM

Your headline appears to be wrong.

Military planners have determined that they will not ship back more than $7 billion worth of equipment — about 20 percent of what the U.S. military has in Afghanistan

So we’re only going to save 7 billion.

That statement suggests that we’re actually wasting $28 billion!

So I have to amend my statement above: Hey, wasting 28 billion is a part of life.

Axeman on June 20, 2013 at 10:25 AM

Oh,another thought,what about Military Collectors,I bet some would
of payed to have vechicles shipped back states-side!

Jus say’n!!

canopfor on June 20, 2013 at 10:25 AM

Great news: US scrapping $7 billion of military equipment in Afghanistan

They’re not scrapping all of it. After 6 months of traveling at least 100 miles on I-70 in Ohio every day, not a day goes by that I haven’t passed 1, 2, 3, or 4 tanks or Humvees being hauled westward.

I wonder what they will be doing with them now…

Glenn Jericho on June 20, 2013 at 10:26 AM

Hey, it’s not there money. They work for it, they don’t care.

Oil Can on June 20, 2013 at 10:28 AM

canopfor on June 20, 2013 at 10:25 AM

Excellent point.

Military vehicle collectors are all over the place, around the world. And most have a bundle of spare change.

I’ve been looking for a pack-howitzer and an M151A2 jeep forever.

I’d take the jeep over the howitzer any day, though.

coldwarrior on June 20, 2013 at 10:29 AM

I wonder what they will be doing with them now…

Glenn Jericho on June 20, 2013 at 10:26 AM

Going to SWAT teams in all the small villages.

a capella on June 20, 2013 at 10:30 AM

What are we, chopped liver?

- India

Kafir on June 20, 2013 at 10:31 AM

The haste of our exit, as exemplified by our abandonment of billions in military resources,

Not true. We would have left billions of equipment behind regardless. There are so many other things to hang on Barry. This is irrelevant and small potatoes anyway.

Theworldisnotenough on June 20, 2013 at 10:32 AM

As others have noted, this is standard operating procedure.

The real problem is cleaning the gear. We can haul a tank back home, but first it has to be scrubbed clean of any local creepy-crawlies. That takes for-bloody-ever and costs a ton in resources, manpower, and potable water.

Abelard on June 20, 2013 at 10:37 AM

Just part of the cost of doing business. Leftists to start pounding their fist on the table in 3…2…1…

Bmore on June 20, 2013 at 10:37 AM

Maybe Afghanistan will use the scrap metal to fuel their mighty industrial infrastructure. Poppy seeds will be flourishing again in no time at all. What a cruddy, despicable country.

Deano1952 on June 20, 2013 at 10:39 AM

This is not a new problem. It has been with us for years, in every conflict we have fought. The problem is caused by:

1) fighting foreign wars (a good thing as opposed to domestic wars). Making it not cost effective to ship home damaged equipment that must be repaired or obsolete equipment.

2) Always being at the top of the learning curve and providing the latest technology for our troops (also a good thing). We really don’t need obsolete equipment returned, just demilitarized.

3) Having production facilities that outstrip our needs or can catch up quickly if needed.

4) having a philosophy that a soldiers’ life is more valuable than his equipment.

It is just good business sense to destroy old, bad, obsolete tactical equipment in place as oppose giving money to Pakistan to transport the junk to a port and then pay a Chinese shipper to return it. The Afganis will just sell the stuff to the Chinese who will turn it into new washing machines and computers.

This is not government waste, outside of the natural waste of war.

Old Country Boy on June 20, 2013 at 10:39 AM

Hey, I spent weeks blindly firing 105 howitzer ammunition until the howitzers wouldn’t return to battery. This was because the Army went entirely to M109s and did not need light howitzers. It also kept dumb Ordinance colonels from becoming confused over 105mm howitzer ammunition and 105 tank ammunition for the M60s. The moral of the story is that within weeks, we were shipping the howitzers back to the states to be rebuilt, because they were ideal for Vietnam. The Ordinance points also geared up to produce new ammunition. But a lot of colonels covered their butts.

Old Country Boy on June 20, 2013 at 10:47 AM

Abelard on June 20, 2013 at 10:37 AM

Good observation there.

Speaking of dirt, the west has been terrible at dirty work like border security, defending the culture and religion and now we are tired of walking around one of the poorest and dustiest places on earth. It was a tough strategy in a tough country. You can’t blame us.

Now we go home to watch our own folks while playing limited and clean defense with the other side at a cost of more billions.

Someone should remind our opinion making apparatus that religions and even whole nations have gone missing in history.

Some of their dirty, used stuff can still be found where they left it.

IlikedAUH2O on June 20, 2013 at 10:48 AM

Why not convoy it all out through Pakistan? Then we can let the Taliban destroy it, instead of us. (Yeah, there’s a problem with putting our people at risk, but that’s never seemed to bother Obama before.) Or, we could drive it to Iran. It ought to be at least as valuable as a drone or two.

GWB on June 20, 2013 at 10:57 AM

The War Planner on June 20, 2013 at 10:50 AM

Nicely played. Once again, as always, WP.

coldwarrior on June 20, 2013 at 10:59 AM

If they were to arrange all the vechicles in a battle formation,
and then conducted various Nuclear Tests,with LIVE Nuke Weapons
of course,in weapons education,

it could be a win/win!!!

(Sarc)

canopfor on June 20, 2013 at 10:16 AM

FIFY ;)

GWB on June 20, 2013 at 11:03 AM

canopfor on June 20, 2013 at 10:16 AM

That is one of the best ideas yet.

coldwarrior on June 20, 2013 at 11:10 AM

Oh its fine. We’ll just up the military’s budget by $50 billion next year so they can buy all new ones. . .

UGH.

thphilli on June 20, 2013 at 11:14 AM

Bequeathing a large share to the Afghan government would be challenging because of complicated rules governing equipment donations to other countries

As opposed to the apparently very lax rules governing the sale of equipment to other countries…such as Egypt.

Pale Rider on June 20, 2013 at 11:20 AM

So this is news how?

As in it’s been done in EVERY war waged by a major power on another’s land. Hell THE BRITISH did the selfsame thing after we won our Revolution to their equipment. At least all the stuff they couldn’t haul out via Canada.

SgtSVJones on June 20, 2013 at 11:41 AM

USTRANSCOM hardest hit…

Khun Joe on June 20, 2013 at 11:51 AM

Why not ship it back and sell it to American taxpayers (who paid for it to be built) for the cost of shipping? I wouldn’t mind having a humvee…

dominigan on June 20, 2013 at 11:51 AM

I’ll take it if they don’t want it.

wdkeller on June 20, 2013 at 11:52 AM

Just another F&F program to equip the Taliban instead of Mexican drug cartels. Maybe they could recycle some of this stuff and get .10 on the dollar return. The greenies would be happy.

Kissmygrits on June 20, 2013 at 12:00 PM

Evacuate all the women and children and then nuke the place.

Their future will be so much brighter than remaining with the over-goat-sexed, a-hole pounding muzzies.

Bubba Redneck on June 20, 2013 at 12:43 PM

The muzzie brothers of obama succeed apace.

Schadenfreude on June 20, 2013 at 1:12 PM

Therefore, much of it will continue to be shredded, cut and crushed to be sold for pennies per pound on the Afghan scrap market

Now where have I heard of this before? Oh yeah: Cash for Clunkers

Wampum for weapons

pain train on June 20, 2013 at 1:17 PM

Now where have I heard of this before? Oh yeah: Cash for Clunkers

Wampum for weapons

pain train on June 20, 2013 at 1:17 PM

Hey don’t laugh. Cash for Clunkers more than doubled what my 2004 Corolla sold for last year. $4,500 no haggling and it had 150,000 miles on it. Sweet! I bought it new from a little less than $12,000.

Johnnyreb on June 20, 2013 at 1:32 PM

I’ll take it if they don’t want it.

Barry doesn’t want it back in the USA. Might fall into the hands of the nefarious Tea Party to use in toppling his admin. and spoil his grand plans for us.

Besides, its all worn out by now anyway and not worth the cost of shipping back here…..only fit to be scrapped, shredded and sold, with the profits going to Barry’s BFF, the MB.

/S

hawkeye54 on June 20, 2013 at 1:33 PM

Afghanistan seems to represent the graveyard of former super powers.

b1jetmech on June 20, 2013 at 10:10 AM

It is, alas in our case, still living up to its centuries-old reputation as the “Graveyard of Empires”.

Kevin K. on June 20, 2013 at 1:46 PM

which means that everything ships by air

Ed, that is not true. I do maritime security and I just did a trip on a RO/RO. We took on vehicles in a Pakistani port, MRAPS. The military ships quit a bit on the seas. They were also getting vehicles out of Kuwait.

Patriot Vet on June 20, 2013 at 2:32 PM

disgusting how our tax money is wasted.
throw em all out at the nbext election!

but of course the dems are special so they won’t.

losarkos on June 20, 2013 at 2:42 PM

Destroying the old stuff
so we can give the Afghans new stuff:

A Republican senator blasted the Pentagon after it entered into a new helicopter contract with a Russian company which is supplying the Syrian regime — even as the U.S. moves to arm the Syrian opposition.

The contract was announced Monday with Russian arms firm Rosoboronexport, for military helicopters that will go to Afghan security forces.

AesopFan on June 20, 2013 at 3:32 PM

I was too young to buy a P-51D when they went on the civilian market. My favorite military airplane of all time.

Really the military should consider to ship some of this equipment to our base on Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.

SC.Charlie on June 20, 2013 at 3:46 PM

AesopFan on June 20, 2013 at 3:32 PM

Do you really want to give the Afghans our much more sophisticated helicopters. They are not going to left there. They are going to be flown out. Russia still make less complicated helicopters that don’t have the capabilities of ours and are easier to maintain.

SC.Charlie on June 20, 2013 at 3:51 PM

Why not bring those vehicles home and sell to us…well DHS, they have all our money, but I think a Hummer would be cool to own!

rgranger on June 20, 2013 at 5:12 PM

It’s all about creating this generation’s Viet Nam. Obama failed in his original target of Iraq, so he lied about Afghanistan being the “good” war.

Steve Eggleston on June 20, 2013 at 5:21 PM

How much of this equipment was shipped there as part of the surge?

blink on June 20, 2013 at 10:17 AM

If memory serves, the surge was something on the order of a 25% increase in American manpower. It would stand to reason, then, that a 20% equipment abandonment rate is entirely due to the surge.

Steve Eggleston on June 20, 2013 at 5:24 PM

They’re not scrapping all of it. After 6 months of traveling at least 100 miles on I-70 in Ohio every day, not a day goes by that I haven’t passed 1, 2, 3, or 4 tanks or Humvees being hauled westward.

I wonder what they will be doing with them now…

Glenn Jericho on June 20, 2013 at 10:26 AM

Securing the area around a TEA Party demonstration.

Solaratov on June 20, 2013 at 8:12 PM

Evacuate all the women and children and then nuke the place.

Their future will be so much brighter than remaining with the over-goat-sexed, a-hole pounding muzzies.

Bubba Redneck on June 20, 2013 at 12:43 PM

I once read a proposal to do just that, set up a reserve area in a couple desert states and allow second-generation children only a chance at citizenship. The reason being that it would take at least that long and that much effort to get the Islamic poison out of their minds.

The guy had wisely turned off the comments for that entry and the blog is now gone. But it would’ve worked, without question.

MelonCollie on June 20, 2013 at 10:41 PM

We need to blow all equipment up when we leave.
Just get the fluck out of there. Obama has covered his hands in American blood. Now is time for us to get out of the sand box because Obama has decided he like the enemy better than Americans.

Delsa on June 21, 2013 at 1:23 AM