More than a decade after invading Afghanistan, the U.S. military will start its withdrawal from Afghanistan by selling off white goods such as tents, accommodation blocks and generators for a fraction of the original price. But here’s the catch -- the buyer has to go pick up the gear.
With combat operations in Afghanistan due to end sometime in 2014, this huge yard sale of quality, military-grade equipment isn’t a heavily discounted goodbye and thank you for the people of Afghanistan, but rather an easy way to offload nonessential equipment in what will be one of the most difficult retrogrades in U.S. military history.
According to a document released by the U.S on Friday, the equipment on offer is everything needed to run a military base, including laundry facilities, sewage systems, water purification systems and fortifications and barriers. Perhaps, and unfortunately for Taliban leaders, no military hardware will be on offer. Likely buyers will be private security forces that are picking up the slack as the military leave or Afghan government and aid agencies.
Once the transaction is made, buyers will have only 96 hours to collect, whether that’s in easily accessible bases near Kabul or forward operating bases high up in the dangerous Korangal Valley.
After that, the Americans are left with more than 40,000 shipping containers with weapons and reusable gear to ship out of the country.
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They had been using routes through eastern Afghanistan then down to the port of Karachi in Pakistan, but security and stability issues in recent months and weeks have increased, rendering the routes out more dangerous and difficult than ever before.
Last week, anti-NATO protests over drone deaths in Pakistan shut supply routes from the northwestern Pakistan route into Afghanistan.
Instead, the American withdrawal is currently having to go north through an old, crumbling Soviet-built tunnel which passes through the avalanche-prone Hindu Kush mountains.
If they make that, a long journey through Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan is left to negotiate before finding an allied sea port with safe routes back to the U.S. Sea routes are available in the Caspian Sea and in Turkish Mediterranean ports but those options would require travel over land and sea.
Without Pakistan, the next best option would take the military from Northern Afghanistan into Kazakhstan, before joining the Russian rail network, which would take the withdrawal across to Baltic countries that do have sea routes into the North Sea and on to the U.S. But those routes are 2.5 times longer, far more expensive and rely heavily on cooperation from Russia.