Saturday, June 19, 2021

US military trashes gear before finally exiting Afghanistan, dismaying locals

They are leaving behind an Afghan population where many are deeply frustrated and angry.

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American forces are dismantling or destroying anything that they are not taking home or giving to the Afghan military before they finally quit Afghanistan on Sept 11.

They are doing so to ensure equipment doesn’t fall into militant hands. But to local scrap sellers, it’s an infuriating waste, reports the AP.

“What they are doing is a betrayal of Afghans,” said one. “Just like they have destroyed this vehicle, they have destroyed us.”

As the last few thousand US and Nato troops head for home, they are deep into a massive logistical undertaking, packing up bases around the country.

They leave behind an Afghan population where many are deeply frustrated and angry.

Many Afghans feel abandoned to a deeply corrupt American-backed government and growing instability that could explode into a new phase of civil war once the troops have gone.

At Bagram air base, northwest of the capital Kabul, and other bases, US forces are inventorying equipment that will be returned home.

Tens of thousands of metal containers are being shipped out on C-17 cargo planes or by road through Pakistan and Central Asia. As of last week, 60 C-17s packed with equipment had already left Afghanistan.

Most of what is being shipped home is sensitive equipment, say US and Western officials who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

Other equipment including helicopters, military vehicles, weapons and ammunition will be handed over to Afghanistan’s National Defense and Security Forces.

Everything else gets destroyed.

The practice is not new. The same was done in 2014, when thousands of troops withdrew as the US and Nato handed Afghanistan’s security over to Afghan forces. More than 176 million kilogrammes of scrap from destroyed equipment and vehicles was sold to Afghan dealers for around US$50 million.

Last month, around the time President Joe Biden announced that America was ending its “forever war”, local scrap merchant Mir paid nearly US$40,000 for a container packed with 70 tonnes of trashed equipment and vehicles.

He’ll make money out of it, he told the AP, but it will be a fraction of what he could have made selling the vehicles if they’d been left intact, even if they weren’t in running condition.

The parts could have been sold to auto repair shops across Afghanistan, he said. But everything has been reduced to mangled pieces of metal.

Sadat, another scrap dealer, says similar junk yards around the country are crammed with ruined American equipment.

“They left us nothing,” he said. “They don’t trust us. They have destroyed our country.”

US forces face a dilemma: hand over intact equipment and risk having it fall into the hands of enemy forces, or trash it and anger local Afghans.

However, not all the destroyed equipment is of a deadly nature.

Afghan scrap merchants wondered what danger a treadmill could have posed to require it to be torn apart, or the long lengths of fire hose cut to pieces, or the sacks once used to create sand-barriers, now their powerful mesh fabric sliced and useless.

Dozens of tents cut and sliced lie in piles on scrapyard floors beside fuel bags, gutted generators, tank tracks and tangled, unrecognisable pieces of metal.

“They destroyed our country and now they are giving us their garbage,” said gray-bearded Hajji Gul, another junk dealer. “What are we to do with this?”

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