US Official: Logistics Challenges to Ship Military Equipment Out of Afghanistan ‘Enormous’

Posted January 3rd, 2012 at 9:25 pm (UTC-5)
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NATO military planners in Afghanistan are trying to figure out how to remove $30 billion worth of military equipment from the mountainous, landlocked country by the end of 2014, when coalition troops are to end their combat mission.

A senior U.S. official said Tuesday the logistics challenges are enormous. He said the operation requires the removal of huge quantities of state-of-the-art military gear, including armored vehicles and trucks, large artillery systems, weapons, and other equipment.

The U.S. official, who requested anonymity, said it is much more cost effective to move equipment by sea than flying things all the way back to the U.S. or to Europe.

He said he can “always wish that Afghanistan was a coastal country with a great port, but it is not.”

The NATO-led alliance started to withdraw its combat forces from Afghanistan last year. But the pullout has been complicated by Pakistan's closure of the alliance's key supply routes following a deadly NATO air strike in November that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

During the recent pullout from Iraq, the U.S. military was able to simply drive its vehicles in large convoys to neighboring Kuwait, which has a deep sea port. However, the main routes out of Afghanistan require the military equipment to be loaded on trucks or trains for the onward journey.