The decade-long Afghan war has cost the U.S. a fortune. And withdrawing from the country, which still faces regular insurgent attacks, won't be a bargain, either.
Military planners have decided to leave behind $7 billion worth of equipment, The Washington Post reports, because it is no longer needed or simply is not worth the cost of shipping home.
The military, rushing to clear out on schedule at the end of 2014, has destroyed more than 170 million pounds of vehicles and other military equipment — including 2,000 of the Pentagon's 11,000 million-dollar Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected personnel carriers, which were rushed into service in 2007 to protect troops from roadside bombs.
The news was promptly branded as a shocking sign of waste in a flurry of angry tweets.
Even the glass-half-full view sounded bad.
The decision to shred giant trucks and scrap other material was actually the product of a debate on how to reduce waste. Some military leaders wanted to bring home more equipment, but they were overruled because the cost of shipping heavy equipment out of war-torn, landlocked Afghanistan was too high.
The Army has roughly $25 billion worth of equipment in Afghanistan, according to National Defense magazine. Lt. Gen. Raymond Mason, Army deputy chief of staff for logistics, said that since the estimated cost of shipping home and repairing the gear tops out at $14 billion, it makes sense to bring it back. "For an investment of $12 to $14 billion, we get $25 billion worth of stuff," Mason told National Defense.
Alan Estevez, assistant secretary of defense for logistics and materiel readiness, told National Defense that military officials will have to show an item is needed to get money to transport it out of Afghanistan. "If we don't need it for the future force," he said, "we are not going to pay the cost of bringing it back for resetting and parking it for some future unidentified need. Those costs are prohibitive."
Shipping, however, isn't the only price to pay. Ed Morrissey at Hot Air says "this may well be the best policy, at least economically speaking, but it looks bad."
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 12 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. [Hot Air]