US army braces for pricey Afghan withdrawal

This is according to fficers in charge of the complex process say.

The US military has pledged it will level any bases not handed over to Afghan forces and fly out, drive out or scrap the weapons, equipment and tens of thousands of Humvees and mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles it has shipped in since 2001.

To do this, it must sort through 100 000 shipping containers and strip down nearly 30 000 vehicles scattered in hundreds of bases across Afghanistan, all by a 2014 deadline, while making sure that the nearly 70 000 US soldiers still in the country are not left short of the equipment they need to fight.

"Our workload will at least double by the beginning of the fall," said Brigadier General Steve Shapiro, the deputy commander of the unit overseeing the removal, sale or destruction of about $26-billion worth of equipment, known to the military as a "retrograde".

"We're hearing about $6-billion in transportation costs," he said, as civilians and US soldiers sorted new arrivals in one of three 5 000m2 warehouses on Bagram airbase, which currently holds about $200-million worth of equipment.

Bagram, the first US base for its war in Afghanistan, is one of two hubs in an effort that employs nearly 10000 soldiers and civilians and is proving far more challenging than the US departure from Iraq.

Labour-intensive process
In Iraq, US equipment was trucked across the border to Kuwait where it was packed, cleaned, recorded and shipped on. But Afghanistan has no coastline, no stable, US-friendly neighbours and only a weak road network.

About 28 000 vehicles and 20 000 shipping containers need to be sorted and prepared in Afghanistan, then shipped out of the country by the end of next year, Shapiro said, leaving little room for error. The rest of the containers – and their contents – will be given to the Afghan army, sold or destroyed.

"It's more complex than Iraq," said Colonel Mark Paget, commander of the 401st Army Field Support Brigade, which is managing the ­retrograde in Bagram. "You don't have the space to make big mistakes. I can't have a pile of equipment here building up. You need a steady, even flow through the system."

His team prepares up to 60 mine-resistant vehicles a day in a painstaking, labour-intensive process, poring over the vehicle for ammunition lost under seats or behind cables, using sophisticated cameras to look into hidden crevices. Lost assault rifle and machine-gun rounds, even grenades and mines,  have been dug out of the interiors of the vehicles. A second unit strips off netting designed to stop rocket-propelled grenades, gun towers, radio equipment and other features, for separate shipping.

Mine-resistant vehicles are washed at least twice, more if they are going straight back to the US, and then, mostly, loaded on to planes, although some are taken out by road. They are so large that only four can fit in the C-17 military transport planes used to fly them on to bases in Kuwait, where they are loaded on to ships.

The US can take some things out on Pakistani roads, the route many supplies came in by. But although the first ship packed with surplus US equipment has already set sail from Karachi port, tension between the two countries has shut the border more than once and the US will not send any high-tech or sensitive equipment by that route.

Planners have to weigh up the cost, the state of roads, bilateral relations and the speed with which transport can be marshalled. "What we don't want is peaks and valleys, which is why there is all this emphasis on it now," Paget said. – © Guardian News & Media 2013


Mabuza’s ‘distant relative’ scored big

Eskom’s woes are often because of boiler problems at its power plants. R50-billion has been set aside to fix them, but some of the contracts are going to questionable entities

ANC faction gunning for Gordhan

The ambush will take place at an NEC meeting about Eskom. But the real target is Cyril Ramaphosa

Despite tweet, Zuma keeps silent about providing his taxpayer information

The Public Protector has still not received confirmation from former president Jacob Zuma that she may access his tax records —...

Ahead of WEF, Mboweni will have to assure investors that...

The finance minister says despite the difficult fiscal environment, structural reforms are under way to put SA on a new growth path

Press Releases

New-style star accretion bursts dazzle astronomers

Associate Professor James O Chibueze and Dr SP van den Heever are part of an international team of astronomers studying the G358-MM1 high-mass protostar.

2020 risk outlook: Use GRC to build resilience

GRC activities can be used profitably to develop an integrated risk picture and response, says ContinuitySA.

MTN voted best mobile network

An independent report found MTN to be the best mobile network in SA in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Is your tertiary institution is accredited?

Rosebank College is an educational brand of The Independent Institute of Education, which is registered with the Department of Higher Education and Training.

Is your tertiary institution accredited?

Rosebank College is an educational brand of The Independent Institute of Education, which is registered with the Department of Higher Education and Training.

VUT chancellor, Dr Xolani Mkhwanazi, dies

The university conferred the degree of Doctor of Science Honoris Causa on Dr Xolani Mkhwanazi for his outstanding leadership contributions to maths and science education development.

Innovate4AMR now in second year

SA's Team pill-Alert aims to tackle antimicrobial resistance by implementing their strategic intervention that ensures patients comply with treatment.

Medical students present solution in Geneva

Kapil Narain and Mohamed Hoosen Suleman were selected to present their strategic intervention to tackle antimicrobial resistance to an international panel of experts.