Gear leaving Iraq by the ton
BAGHDAD — As mass troop withdrawals lie on the horizon, U.S. hardware is moving out of Iraq by the ton, much of it going straight to the overstretched forces in increasingly volatile Afghanistan, according to the U.S. brigadier general in charge of logistics.
The U.S. military has already started moving an estimated 1.5 million pieces of equipment — everything from batteries to tanks — by ground, rail and air either to Afghanistan for immediate use or to the U.S. for refurbishing, Army Brig. Gen. Heidi Brown said.
"Before anything goes out of Iraq, we determine whether it’s needed in Afghanistan or whether it’s going to depot, because we only want to move it once," she said.
The goods are largely leaving by ground through U.S.-friendly Jordan and Kuwait. Although Iraqi army and police units are chronically short of spare parts — many Iraqi army stations are littered with idled Humvees — little of the materiel is staying in Iraq.
"In order for us to leave that equipment, it has to be deemed ‘excess,’ " Brown said, noting that decisions on whether equipment stays or goes are being left to local commanders.
As U.S. bases close, the focus is on leaving the Iraqis buildings with functioning utilities, but working battle gear usually does not stay. The U.S. is encouraging the Iraqi government to supply its own army.
Although each base is allowed to leave behind $15 million worth of equipment, only about $19 million in gear has been left after 200 base closures, Brown said.
"[Iraqis] have to make choices with their own budget," she said.
The other half of Brown’s responsibility is troops, and the plan now is to reduce the 130,000-strong contingent to about 50,000 in the next year and go from about 300 U.S. bases and outposts to just 50.
Some bases, such as the Victory Base Complex in Baghdad and Camp Speicher near Tikrit, have grown to resemble small cities, and Brown said it will likely take a year to shut them down.