Sell or Shred? US Copes With Tons of Afghanistan Equipment

Cost estimates keep rising and the timetable keeps going out further and further as the US comes to grips with the reality that huge amounts of equipment they’ve spent the last 12-plus years pouring into occupied Afghanistan is unneeded, unwanted, and a liability.

Shipping all that “surplus” hardware out of Afghanistan is going to cost many billions of dollars, and though officials say they hope to have it done by the end of 2014, the plans keep getting pushed out as new obstacles emerge.

The US has been desperately trying to unload some of the burden, giving it to other nations for pennies on the dollar or even in some cases “gifting” it if they agree to ship it out of Afghanistan. But a lot of the stuff’s not wanted.

The multi-ton MRAPS personnel carriers, for instance, cost $1 million a pop, and that’s before shipping. But the Army has so many after years of pumping them into Afghanistan they’ve got more than they ever needed, and with no real use, they’ve figured that shredding them and selling the scrap metal to junk dealers in Afghanistan is the best they can do now.

That’s no isolated incident, as officials have previously conceded that $7 billion worth of US gear that is just not worth shipping home is going to be shredded. The Afghan government has been hoping to get their hands on some of it.

That’s unlikely, however, simply for PR reasons. The Afghan government may well have use for a lot of this gear, but losing it to the Taliban becomes a distinct possibility, and having Taliban fighters showing off captured US equipment, no matter who they captured it from, is too much of an embarrassment for officials to risk.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.