In Iraq, Gear Gets Left Behind

Ernesto Londoño’s article in the Washington Post yesterday details a controversy over military gear worth tens of millions of dollars being donated to the Iraqi government. Cue arguments in the Pentagon: One military official thinks this fails to account for the need for similar items in Afghanistan, while the chief of staff for the ground forces command in Iraq says it’s more cost-effective to donate such items to the Iraqi government than to ship them out. Others express concern that equipment left behind could be looted.

In our 2007 package on the many problems associated with leaving Iraq, Mother Jones looked into the fate of military equipment in the wake of withdrawal. On containers and trailers:

Containers are easy to come by; a former logistics officer says if any are brought back the job will probably fall to contractors like Kellogg, Brown and Root. “A lot will be left there for the Iraqis to use for storage, because where do you store stuff in the middle of the desert?”

The Pentagon blocked requests earlier this year for carte blanche on donating certain kinds of items (SUVs, generators, etc.) at closing bases, maintaining that US forces in Afghanistan needed some of them. Then, in October, it relaxed its guidelines, raising the cap on donations and loosening regulations about leaving behind passenger vehicles. New “suggested rationales” used to justify donations, such as avoiding delayed withdrawal and fostering favorable relations between the US and Iraq, seem to give commanders a lot of leeway to decide what will or won’t end up sent to support the surge of troops in Afghanistan.