WASHINGTON: The Army is now 35 percent complete in its effort to move equipment and materiel out of Iraq as part of the withdrawal from that country.
Lt. Gen. William G. Webster, commander, Third Army, spoke April 2 during a press briefing at the Pentagon, about the status of the drawdown in Iraq, and the buildup in Afghanistan. The Army began pulling equipment out of the country in May 2009.
“When we started this operation we had about 2.8 million items of equipment in Iraq, along with 88,000 containers containing some of that equipment,” the general said.
The Army has also retrograded more than 11,000 pieces of rolling stock — that is tracked vehicles, wheeled vehicles and trailers. Additionally, more than 21,000 troops have redeployed from Operation Iraqi Freedom. In all, more than 1.25 billion dollars worth of materiel and equipment have left Iraq.
“We’re about 35 percent through with that now,” Webster said.
Nearly half of the equipment coming out of Iraq has been marked to go to Afghanistan for the buildup there, Webster said. Other equipment will go back to the United States to be reintegrated into the Army, sold to foreign militaries, or disposed of. But much equipment the Army will keep, including that for buildup in Afghanistan, needs to be modified before going into the new environment, or repaired, due to excessive wear from use in Iraq.
“The equipment we have has been ridden hard,” the general said.
Equipment is now being reset and repaired in Kuwait, Webster said. If it can’t be reset there, it may go back to the United States to be repaired in depots.
“We have a large team of experts from Army Materiel Command and the Defense Logistics Agency that looks at all of this equipment in Iraq where it currently sits,” he said. “If the equipment is not fully mission-capable or it doesn’t have enough life in it … they will pass that equipment back to us.”
Webster said if the Army determines the overall cost to repair equipment is more than the operational cost, it might be scrapped.
While equipment needs to be cleaned up and refurbished before going into Afghanistan, other equipment needs to be modified for the different operational environment found there, Webster said.
“Some of the equipment we’ll get out of Iraq does not have the latest armor on it,” he said. “We may also have to change engines, suspensions, transmissions as well as adding on the latest armor before we push it forward. We’re trying to get it to our troops in the best condition possible before they realize they need it.”
To move that equipment around in theater, the Army is depending heavily on the Northern Distribution Network set up by the U.S. Transportation Command. About 50 percent of supplies are being moved that way, Webster said.
“Those northern routes have given us a great deal of relief and additional capacity if any of the routes are blocked by weather or enemy action,” he said.
The general said through efficiencies he expects the Army can beat its initial time estimates for moving necessary equipment into Afghanistan.
“The president told us he wanted to move in there (Afghanistan) as quickly as possible,” he said. “Initial estimates were that is was going to take as much as 18 months. Through the efficiencies we found and the hard work of the entire DoD team and our allies too, with all these other networks, we now will be able to move the 5,000-plus vehicles that are needed for the buildup by the end of the summer.”