A chief frustration amongst civilians is trying to clearly understand and relate to military terms, expressions, and concepts. Add in a bit of legal speak, and you have painted a strikingly confusing picture to the outside world. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that when reports come out about the US government donating nearly $1 billion in property to the Afghan government, red flags should go up.
So let’s dig a bit more into this process. Much of the property originated through contracts that were coordinated through the many procurement representatives of the branches. In a planned out setting, they work together, employing common project themes across regions to ensure that the processes are both cost-effective and meet the needs of the service members. In a less controlled environment, a senior ranking person says “I need,” and they respond with a sigh and “Wilco,” and the rest is history.
Either way, the process takes time, employs government money, and equipment is either manufactured and shipped, delivered, or built on the site. Some prime examples of these contracts for property include buildings, non-tactical vehicles, medical bags, camo nets and so on. These items are either added to an organization’s downrange property books known as Theater Provided Equipment (TPE), or are considered installation property of the camp or forward operating base.
As time goes, requirements change. A sprawling base such as FOB Shank suddenly needs to cut its personnel and start redeploying the vast amount of property and people. As the base downsizes, it reduces its logistical and tactical footprint. In doing so, military equipment gets inventoried, packaged and shipped home. TPE can be transferred to home station property books and redeploy with the units. Containers that are serviceable for air and ship travel are filled, and sent back. What can go, does go.
There are restrictions though. If it costs more to ship something and it meets the demilitarization requirements of being non-tactical, it can be left behind. This gives the government the opportunity to not pay $8,000 to ship a $3,000 non-tactical vehicle back to the States. In this case, the government has three choices. They can abandon the equipment, which leads to pilfering and frustration by government officials. They can destroy the equipment as was done in 2013 and reported by NPR when the government scrapped more than $7 billion in MRAPs and military gear. This also leads to frustration by local militaries that feel that they could have used the equipment. Or finally, they can donate the equipment.
Understanding that what can be donated is still limited in nature and in many cases costs less to donate than to scrap the equipment, it can be the most financially lucrative, and strategically helpful decision for the government to make. At the end of the day, is it better to pay more to bring something home that has no use here, or to leave it there and give it to someone who may need it?
Much can be said about whether or not the Afghan military or people will in fact properly use the equipment. Experience says that people will pilfer whatever they can and the road to hell is often paved in good intentions. With that said, sometimes the best decision can still sound the worst when summed up into a news article title.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.