As the U.S. military prepares for its withdrawal from Afghanistan on Sept. 11 of this year, it is destroying vehicles and military equipment that won’t be making the trip back home and selling it as scrap metal, according to The Associated Press (AP).
Military equipment used in Afghanistan by the U.S. military is now going to one of three places: it’s either coming home with U.S. troops; being gifted to the Afghan military; or being turned into scrap metal and left in Afghanistan, The AP reported Monday. Destroying equipment that is being left behind is considered a security measure to make sure it does not fall into the wrong hands, the outlet noted, even if destroying the equipment angers some Afghans.
Around 1,300 pieces of equipment have been destroyed, according to a statement provided to The AP by the U.S. military. That number is expected to climb as the U.S. continues its withdrawal from Afghanistan over the coming months.
The U.S. military is taking stock of all of its equipment while it disassembles its bases and outposts, The AP reported. Officials aren’t being explicit about what equipment is staying or going, but the equipment deemed valuable enough to make the trek back home is being packed into thousands of 20-foot-long, metal containers and loaded onto C-17 cargo planes or trucks. The AP reported that 60 C-17 cargo planes loaded down with these metal containers had already departed Afghanistan headed for home. (RELATED: Trump Urges Biden To Reconsider 9/11 Afghanistan Withdrawal)
Some of the military’s operational equipment, such as ammunition, weapons, vehicles and helicopters, is being gifted to Afghanistan’s National Defense and Security Forces, along with some of the U.S.’s former bases, The AP reported.
The rest is being scrapped.
Several all-terrain vehicles from Bagram Air Base — the U.S. military’s largest remaining outpost in Afghanistan — have been turned to scrap and can now be found in Baba Mir’s scrapyard, along with dismantled generators, destroyed tank tracks, and piles of fabric that were once U.S. military tents, The AP reported.
In April, Mir bought a container filled with 70 tons of destroyed military equipment for $40,000, according to The AP. While scrappers like him are poised to make money off of these kinds of transactions as a result of the withdrawal, some, like Mir, aren’t pleased with the U.S. military’s decision to destroy the equipment. “What they are doing is a betrayal of Afghans,” Mir said in reference to destroying the equipment, according to The AP. “They should leave,” he added. “Like they have destroyed this vehicle, they have destroyed us.”
Another scrapper, identified as Sadat by The AP, echoed Mir’s statements. “They left us nothing,” Sadat claimed. “They don’t trust us. They have destroyed our country. They are giving us only destruction.”
However, The AP reported that the U.S. military’s decision to destroy left-behind equipment is not a new practice. In 2014, the U.S. military and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies sold Afghans over 387 million pounds of equipment scrap for $46.5 million, an unnamed Defense Logistics Agency spokeswoman told The AP.
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Furthermore, an anonymous official familiar with the withdrawal process justified the U.S. military’s decision to destroy the equipment to The AP with anecdotal evidence. At one point, U.S. troops allegedly discovered the enemy had obtained two Humvees and packed them with explosives. U.S. forces were able to destroy the Humvees, but the incident illuminated why destroying discarded equipment was crucial, the official explained.