U.S. to leave behind billions in military equipment in Afghanistan

NATO soldiers board a Chinook helicopter after a security handover ceremony at a military academy outside Kabul on June 18, 2013.

American troops are on the way out of Afghanistan, but the Washington Post reports that much of their equipment -- some $7 billion worth -- won't be coming home with them. In fact, a lot of it is being sold as scrap metal.

Here's the Post with the details:

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.

Another reason the U.S. military is ditching the stock? It doesn't translate well to other environments.

"We have a lot of specialized equipment that's mostly valuable only in this kind of terrain and underthese kinds of circumstances," says David Berteau at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Bertreau notes the MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle) as an example of this. He says, while the vehicle was useful in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is not geared as well to other parts of the world.

 

About the author

David Gura is a reporter for Marketplace, based in the Washington, D.C. bureau.

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