National Security

Contractors Left Ammo, Military Vehicles Unguarded During Afghanistan Withdrawal

REUTERS/Nasir Wakif

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Thomas Phippen Associate Editor
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The Department of Defense didn’t secure vehicles and equipment at the beginning of the withdrawal from Afghanistan, a redacted report released Monday through a Freedom of Information Act request shows.

During the drawdown of troops from Afghanistan in 2013, the U.S. hired a number of contractors to move vehicles, equipment and ammunition. Pentagon officials failed to ensure that contractors met basic security standards as they transported equipment.

The Department of Defense Office of the Investigator General (OIG) found that because contracting officials “were unaware of conditions on the ground” at Bagram and Kandahar airfields, they did not include specifications for safeguarding military equipment in the finalized contracts.

The biggest withdrawal of troops occurred between 2013 and 2015, when President Barack Obama reduced the number of U.S. forces Afghanistan from 68,000 troops to around 9,800. (RELATED: 15 Years Later, America Isn’t Leaving Afghanistan Anytime Soon)

The report, dated April 4, 2014, collected findings from the initial drawdown in 2013; it recommended minimum security guidelines be included in Transportation Command’s contracts.

Maintaining security at Kandahar and Bagram was important, as “billions of dollars of sensitive equipment” would have to travel through those ports.

While the report did not note any cases where equipment or ammunition went missing, the OIG gave numerous examples where the vehicles were parked in areas not secured by a chain link fence or left completely out in the open.

A storage area at Bagram, for example, “had neither a perimeter fence nor a guard to monitor the cargo,” the report says.

Some equipment may have been damaged simply by being left in the sun. At Kandahar Air Force Base, OIG investigators “observed a container of medical equipment, worth more than $90,000, marked ‘Medical Equipment Heat Sensitive’ in an outside cargo storage cage exposed to direct sunlight and temperatures approaching nearly 100 degrees Fahrenheit.”

While the Pentagon had strict guidelines for clearing all ammunition from the vehicles before transporting them from Afghanistan, a few vehicles turned up outside Afghanistan with dozens of rounds of loose ammunition and trash inside the cab.

Vehicles transported from Afghanistan after use do not have much value to the Pentagon, as evidenced by the fact that officials did not monitor “contractor cargo safeguarding operations” during the drawdown. In fact, the Pentagon only had two metrics for measuring contract performance: whether the cargo was delivered on time, and whether the contractor “provided accurate and timely shipment status reports.”

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