U.S. troops could have to destroy thousands of their own “excess” vehicles in Afghanistan if buyers can’t be found and the services don’t reverse course on bringing them home, the top U.S. commandeer said Thursday.
The U.S. has been looking to sell about 4,000 vehicles that the services have said are “in excess” of their needs — MRAPs, Humvees, medium trucks and others – to friendly countries but so far there have been few takers, said Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, commander of the coalition and U.S. Forces-Afghanistan.
Dunford posed his own question: “What do I do” with that vehicle that has been ruled “in excess” of the needs of the U.S. military? Dunford’s solution: “Either it’s going to go to some other country or it’s going to be destroyed in Afghanistan.”
It’s already been decided by the Pentagon that Dunford can’t just leave the vehicles for the Afghan National Security Forces.
In the case of the MRAPs, the Defense Logistics Agency said late last year that it would cost too much to fix them up, and the Afghans wouldn’t be able to maintain them or handle the on-board computers, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Dunford said he currently has about 1,230 excess MRAP (Mine Resistant/Ambush Protected) vehicles, which originally cost about $1 million apiece.
“We are not destroying any of those vehicles now,” Dunford said, but it appeared he would have little choice later in the year as the deadline approaches for the withdrawal of all coalition combat forces by Dec. 31.
If any friendly countries want to buy them, it’s an “as is-where is” deal, Dunford said. By that he meant the buyer would have to pick up the vehicles from Afghanistan, Dunford said.
If he can’t sell them, the estimates are that it will cost up to $10,000 apiece to destroy the vehicles in place, Dunford said. “If I bring a vehicle home that we don’t need,” Dunford said, the cost estimates are $50,000 or more apiece.
Dunford said he was still looking for other ways around his vehicle problem. “This is not a closed issue,” Dunford said at an off-camera briefing with Pentagon reporters.
At the briefing, Dunford re-iterated his confidence that Afghan presidential elections scheduled next month would produce new leadership that would approve the pending Bilateral Security Agreement allowing for the post-2014 presence of a coalition force of 8,000–12,000 trainers and advisors.
Dunford said the U.S. military was flexible enough to wait until sometime in September for an Afghan decision on a new BSA.
“If I knew we were going to (totally) withdraw in December of 2014, I wouldn’t be doing anything differently,” Dunford said.
Either way, U.S. forces were ready to get everyone and everything out by Dec. 31, or to make preparations for a residual force that would stay in Afghanistan in 2015 and beyond, Dunford said.
“I’m pretty comfortable that up until September we can handle multiple options,” Dunford said.
Clarification: An earlier version of this article didn’t make clear at the top of the story the parameters for how and if the decision to destroy the U.S. vehicles in Afghanistan will be made.