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Wednesday 18.07.2018 | Name days: Rozālija, Roze

Leaving Afghanistan is a $7bn task for U.S.

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Author: AF/SCANPIX

The U.S. invaded Afghanistan more than 12 years ago with a contingent of special forces and Central Intelligence Agency officers, some of them on horseback, armed with laser pointers to direct air strikes against al-Qaeda and its Taliban hosts.

Getting Americans out again will be more complicated, according to Bloomberg.

The U.S. has begun withdrawing troops and war materiel from Afghanistan after the longest war in American history. So far, the conflict has cost about $600 billion, led to the deaths of 2,205 American troops and injured 18,462. About 16,725 Afghan civilians also have been killed.

While the fighting continues, the U.S. is mounting what may become a $7 billion effort to withdraw most of its forces from Afghanistan by the end of next year. It will require sending Humvees, helicopters, drones and 12 1/2-ton mine-resistant vehicles home by rail and truck networks stretching from Karachi to ports in the Baltic Sea.

Unlike Iraq, where “the fighting had for a good extent stopped” before the U.S. began to withdraw, in Afghanistan “there’s still certainly an active insurgency and an active fight and essentially we’re in contact with the enemy as we do this,” Alan Estevez, the U.S. assistant secretary of defense for logistics, said. “All of those things make it difficult and increase the risk of our departure as we pull out.”

Among the biggest contractors involved in the move are A.P. Moeller-Maersk A/S (MAERSKB), the Copenhagen-based owner of the world’s largest container line, the American President Lines unit of Singapore-based Neptune Orient Lines Ltd. (NOL), and Hamburg, Germany-based Hapag-Lloyd AG, according to Estevez.

Of the 66,000 U.S. troops now in Afghanistan, about 32,000 will return by February, and most of the rest will depart by December 2014, leaving a smaller force to train and advise Afghans as well as conduct counterterrorism operations.

Politics and geography make the withdrawal from Afghanistan more complicated than the departure from Iraq that was completed in 2011. The U.S. was able to stockpile war materiel from Iraq in neighboring Kuwait before loading it on ships. The U.S. moved out 2 million items from 92 bases in Iraq in about 20,000 truckloads.

In the absence of a safe and friendly zone such as Kuwait, the Pentagon plans to send about 60 percent of its inventory in Afghanistan — mostly non-lethal items — through Pakistan by truck to the port of Karachi, Estevez said in an interview in his Pentagon office.

In the past, Pakistan has closed the two main border crossings from Afghanistan to protest U.S. actions. The supply route was shut from November 2011 to July 2012 after a U.S. military strike mistakenly killed 24 Pakistani troops.

Although the route is now open, the relationship between the two countries remains fragile, and Afghan President Hamid Karzai has accused Pakistan of sheltering militants and letting them stage attacks on his country.

The other 40 percent of the American cargo will go north past the Hindu Kush mountains, crisscrossing several former Soviet republics in the Caucasus by truck and rail before reaching ports on the Baltic Sea in Latvia or Lithuania, Estevez said. The tab for the withdrawal may be $5 billion to $7 billion, he said.

By the end of 2014, the Pentagon will have moved about 22,000 containers of materiel out of Afghanistan, Estevez said.

The U.S. Army, which has the largest presence in the country, estimates that it has about $27 billion of military hardware in Afghanistan, and most of it will come home, Estevez said. The other military services have smaller inventories, he said.

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