The drawdown in Iraq presents a huge logistic challenge of what to do with the thousands of tons of equipment that goes along with each brigade. A lot of that expensive gear will stay in the region to help fight future conflicts instead of coming home to the United States, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times.
Last year, the Congressional Budget Office reported that a staggering 40 percent of all Marine and Army ground equipment was in Iraq. That fact, coupled with the relentless wear and tear of warfare, made for a lack of equipment to train on back home.
The Pentagon has estimated that it needs $46.4 billion for the Army’s near future to restore its equipment levels – with an additional $10.2 billion for the Marine Corps and $20 billion for the Guard and reserve.
What’s more, there will be no “peace dividend” to lessen the fiscal pain.
As the LA Times reports, load upon load of the U.S. equipment and rolling stock will remain with the Iraqi security forces, some will be shipped to Afghanistan, and even more armor and weaponry is slated to restock U.S.-run warehouses across the Middle East – poised for possible future use.
The repositioning has not gone unnoticed.
“What nobody wants to do is see the U.S. posture for an attack on Iran,” said Anthony H. Cordesman, a scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “The rhetoric here is, ‘We would love for you to stay, but we don’t want to be the springboard for some sort of idiotic exercise in Iran.’”
Even friendly Kuwait, which owes its continued independence to the 1991 U.S. invasion to oust Saddam Hussein’s forces from within its borders, has dictated that the U.S. military may store only equipment that would be used for the defense of Kuwait.
According to the Times report, U.S. officials have not spelled out how much equipment would be repositioned in Kuwait or elsewhere. However, in the past, the military has stored enough equipment for a heavy brigade each in Kuwait, Qatar and South Korea and for three in Europe.
At the heart of this equipment being repositioned are heavily armored Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles and tanks.
The bulk of the gear most likely would leave the Iraq theater through Kuwait, with supplemental use of the Iraqi port of Umm al Qasr.
Retired Army Lt. Gen. William “Gus” Pagonis, who oversaw the logistics effort in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, said it would take a long time to get the equipment out.
“The bottom line is it is going to take a good 18 months to get out, but you can expedite that by dumping it all into Kuwait,” Pagonis said. “And a lot of stuff can be left for Iraqi forces.”
“You are going to have to make very hard choices about what equipment you leave behind,” Cordesman said. “The force mix you put into the gulf is not going to be the one designed to defeat the Iraqi army. But you do face a series of major challenges from Iran.”
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