The United States is trying to sell or dispose of billions of dollars in military hardware, including sophisticated and highly specialized mine-resistant vehicles as it packs up to leave Afghanistan after 13 years of war, officials said last week. But the efforts to sell the equipment to “nearby countries” are complicated in a region where relations between neighboring nations are mired in suspicion and outright hostility.
A statement by the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan confirmed Islamabad is one interested buyer. The statement said Pakistan’s request is being reviewed but any equipment it receives, including the coveted mine-resistant vehicles, will not likely come from Afghanistan. An earlier U.S. Forces statement was definite: Pakistan would not get any U.S. equipment being sold out of Afghanistan.
The U.S. military has 800 of the highly sophisticated Mine Resistant Ambush Protected armored vehicles available. Selling them off could bring in hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue and generate savings of as much as $500 million, according to a Department of Defense spokesman. The Pentagon has already given away 165 or more of the vehicles to U.S. police forces and sheriff’s departments under a program that began last summer. The computerized transports have been used by U.S. service personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan, as protection against the deadly roadside bombs used relentlessly by insurgents.
Last month, the head of coalition forces in Afghanistan, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, told a Pentagon briefing that Pakistan would be interested in getting the vehicles. Roadside bombs have been one of the deadliest weapons used by Pakistani insurgents against an estimated 170,000 Pakistani soldiers deployed in the tribal regions that border Afghanistan and Pakistan.
But reports that Pakistan might be interested in the armored vehicles raised hackles in Kabul, with authorities there saying all the equipment should stay in Afghanistan.
In a statement last week aimed at easing Kabul’s concerns that no military equipment from Afghanistan would go to Pakistan, Dunford said, “our commitment to the Afghan people and the Afghan National Security Forces is unwavering.”
The United States has also been trying to dispose of $6 billion in non-military hardware—such as desks, chairs, tables, and generators—ahead of the final withdrawal of U.S. and NATO combat troops by the end of this year. Just this month, the U.S. military received approval from Afghanistan’s Finance Ministry to sell off the non-lethal items to Afghan vendors.
The U.S. government, however, considers some non-lethal items, such as treadmills and household appliances, a potential threat because they have timers that could be used in bombs. Such equipment will be destroyed and sold to the Afghans as scrap. Infuriated Afghan vendors told the Associated Press that they could make more money selling functional equipment. They also said timers are available for the equivalent of $1, making it unlikely insurgents would pay upward of $100 for a functioning treadmill just to get a timer.