The United States of America is winding its longest war in Afghanistan and they would maintain a meager force of ten to fifteen thousand men in the post 2014 situation. The US is facing a mammoth task to ship back their left over of military equipment in Afghanistan. The US military had spent more than 3.1 trillion dollars on Afghan and Iraq wars. The burden of these wars on economy has compelled the US to squeeze its military spending on these fronts. The US department of defense is going to submit a $496 billion 2015 budget request to Congress. The US wants to minimize its expenditures of drawdown from Afghanistan. Despite its efforts to cut the expenditures, the transportation cost of crucial war gear will be very high. This is the reason that the US is willing to auction the unnecessary equipment in Afghanistan.
The US will withdraw most of its troops by December 2014. So far America has lost more than 2,500 soldiers in Afghanistan and the financial cost of Afghan conflict is almost $600 billion. The US led coalition have closed or handed over more than 400 bases to Afghan security forces. The US would maintain a meager force in the post 2014 withdrawal. For these forces around 15,000 vehicles will stay behind and remaining would be open for auction to interested countries.
The US would have two supply routes to ship back its war machinery from Afghanistan. First route is through Pakistan. This is the shortest route for the US military as compare to Northern Distribution Network. Second route is through Central Asian States in the Caucasus by truck and rail before reaching ports on the Baltic Sea in Latvia or Lithuania. The second route is long and expensive. The cost of withdrawal will be more than $7 billion. The US would prefer the shortest route but the problem with shorter route is that it is unreliable and extremely dangerous. Previously hundreds of Afghanistan bound trucks, oil tankers and logistics containers were looted and destroyed by militants in Pakistan. This is the reason that America may choose long but safe and secure route for their exit from Afghanistan.
The US commander in Afghanistan, General Dunford said that the US military has destroyed more than 77,000 metric tons of military equipment – including mine-resistant troop transport vehicles. The cost to ship them back home was much more than the actual price. The U.S. Army has about $36 billion worth of military equipment in Afghanistan. The US military would ship back most of its war gear from Afghanistan, which may include gunship helicopters, command & control equipment, radios, trucks and UAVs. The US military would shift more than 28,000 vehicles and 22,000 containers of material out of Afghanistan before December 2014. It would be a tough task to move out crucial equipment from Afghanistan as compare to Iraq where the US military had road links to port in Kuwait.
Keeping in mind the high cost of shipping the Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles-(MRAPs), the US military has decided to sale these vehicles to their allies. Almost 9,000 MRAPs will be shipped back from Afghanistan, but the remaining will be available for sale. The MRAPs are heavy vehicles specially designed to protect troops in war zone from Improvised Explosive Devices- (IEDs), mines or roadside bombs. The US military have lost more than 65% of its soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq because of IEDs. The high rate of roadside bombs compelled America to launch an ambitious $50 billion worth program in 2007 to induct MRAPs to protect lives its soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2011, the US analysts estimated that MRAPs saved up to 40,000 lives — 10,000 in Iraq and 30,000 in Afghanistan. The US commanders believe that induction of MRAPs helped save thousands of lives. These vehicles may also help Pakistan in the operations against militants in tribal areas.
Pakistan and America are allies in the war against terror. America is aware of Pakistan’s role and sacrifices in this war. It is expected that Pakistan military will launch a decisive operation in North Waziristan Agency. To clear and hold FATA Pakistan would require MRAPs. Pakistan has lost many high profile senior officers and soldiers because of IEDs. The induction of MRAPs would help Pakistan military in the fight against militants in rugged and mountainous terrain of FATA. The rate of fatalities would also decrease by the induction of such force multiplier. The US Embassy in Islamabad has shown its desire to sale MRAPs to Pakistan. Moreover Pakistan may also utilize such vehicles in Karachi for the protection of Police and other law enforcement agencies from any IED attacks. The New York Congressman Dana Rohrabacher has suggested that India and Uzbekistan must also be part of customer list for the left over military equipment. It seems that pro Indian lobby is active in USA to give India a share in the war machine left by the US in Afghanistan. India’s interests in Afghanistan would be in danger after the withdrawal of America. In the post 2014 situation Pakistan would become a crucial player in the region. Afghan Taliban are strong and in good position. Their future role in Afghanistan cannot be denied. It is imperative for the US strategic thinkers to realize importance of Pakistan in the post withdrawal situation. Pakistan can play an important role in the settlement of Afghan gridlock. America must supply its left over war gear to Pakistan military so they can improve their capacity to fight militancy and extremism in its tribal belt and minimize the casualty rate of its troops deployed in turbulent areas in FATA and Baluchistan.
By Masood.Ur.Rehman Khattak, WEEKLY PULSE MAGAZINE, April 07, 2014
Author is Lecturer at the Department of Politics and International Relations in International Islamic University Islamabad. He can be reached at [email protected]