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Belmont Club

Retreat Heck

September 13th, 2013 - 9:04 pm

The big drawdown of Coalition forces in Afghanistan is beginning. “Sometime in the next few weeks, local workers will rip out the fancy cooking equipment in the gleaming, $20 million armored dining hall on the German-run military base at Kunduz, Afghanistan, and replace it with crude wood-burning stoves built on what is now a loading dock.”

Coalition troops at the German base and an adjacent U.S. camp are packing up and shipping out equipment, trying to decide what to destroy, what to sell and what to give to the local Afghan security forces, trying to orchestrate a safe, orderly final withdrawal even as they dodge the occasional incoming rocket and respond to intelligence reports of bombs along the roads they’re using to truck equipment and people out.

Normally the equipment and unused supplies would go out by road and rail to ports for return to base. But as the Washington Post points out most of it now has to be flown out by air.  ”As it intensifies its withdrawal from Afghanistan, the U.S. military is being forced to fly massive amounts of gear and equipment out of the country instead of using cheaper overland and sea routes, according to Pentagon officials.”

Military logisticians would like to send home 60 percent of their equipment and vehicles by trucking them into Pakistan and then loading them onto ships — the least expensive method by far. But cargo is flowing out on that route at only one-third the planned rate, the officials said.

As most Belmont Club readers know, all the land routes in or out of Afghanistan go through Pakistan, Iran or Russia. There have been difficulties arranging passage out. These countries want to be paid an exit fee to allow a US evacuation and the price has been high.

Officials declined to elaborate on the reasons for their heavy reliance on the more expensive methods of transport. They said, however, that Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter and other Pentagon officials are scheduled to arrive Friday in Kabul to meet with senior Afghan officials on the issue. …

The government of Afghanistan closed the border this summer after a dispute over whether the Pentagon and its contractors should have to pay $70 million in customs “fines” for taking the military gear out of the country. The Pentagon has refused to pay, calling the penalties a thinly veiled attempt at a shakedown. …

The U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan poses an enormous logistical challenge. The landlocked country is halfway around the world, has few rail lines and poor roads, and is ringed by mountainous terrain. By the end of next year, U.S. officials say, they need to pull out 24,000 vehicles and 20,000 shipping containers, one way or another. …

The primary alternative is to load the equipment on cargo planes and fly it out — either all the way back to the United States, or to seaports in the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea. But those options are three to seven times as expensive as the route through Pakistan.

Another alternative is to ship cargo by rail or truck across Afghanistan’s northern borders into Central Asia and Russia. But the Defense Department, after working for years to secure transit agreements with those countries, expects to move only 1 or 2 percent of its equipment along those corridors, according to a senior defense official who spoke on the condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the Pentagon.

Obama chose to move large land forces into Afghanistan despite the fact that it is landlocked and the only routes in or out snaked through enemy country. Maybe he was counting on charming his way out.  Well it is isn’t working. He’ll have to buy his way out.

So anything that can’t be bribed or flown out will have to be destroyed or given away. A waste? A mistake? Obama doesn’t make any mistakes, as Kevin Drum reminds us. “Obama didn’t plan on Syrian inspections. He did something better … the mark of a good commander is recognizing that and figuring out to react. It may not be pretty to watch it unfold in public in real time, but it’s nonetheless the mark of a confident and effective commander-in-chief. It’s about time we had one.”  Already the White House reminds us, “Russian prestige on the line in Syria”. Whatever you say. Whatever you say.

Maybe the White House should forget about Syria for a while and remember Hungnam.

Generally described as an “amphibious operation in reverse”, the evacuation of Hungnam encompassed the safe withdrawal of the bulk of UN forces in eastern North Korea. It was the largest sealift since the 1945 Okinawa operation. In barely two weeks, over a hundred-thousand military personnel, 17,500 vehicles and 350,000 measurement tons of cargo were pulled out. In comparison with the retreat in central and western Korea, little was left behind. Even broken-down vehicles were loaded and lifted out. Also departing North Korea through Hungnam were some 91,000 refugees, a large number, but not nearly as many as had gathered to leave.

What they couldn’t take out in 1950 they blew up. But in this politically correct era, the President can just make a gift of what he can’t afford to fly out — to the Taliban, why not, he’s giving arms to al-Qaeda in Syria (as described in Dining with Al Qaeda, an American lady reporter’s charming meal with Jihadis)  – and fly the last men out, assuming the airfield remains in US hands to the last.

Can't Take It With You: Hungnam Evacuation

Can’t Take It With You: Hungnam Evacuation


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Top Rated Comments   
Fast & Furious III the Taliban edition.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (31)
All Comments   (31)
Sort: Newest Oldest Top Rated
It won't be an Anabasis.

The troops will fly out, not fight out, fly out ... leave the despised MRAPs behind and get back to the beloved Abrams and Bradley machines ...forget about COIN for another 35 years
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Better the MRAPs get blown up than shipped back here for Fatherland security to use. Ideally they could be sold or permanently leased to the Phillipines. But that would make too much sense.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Here's how it looked last time:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3cSvp9pEw4

But we were so much smarter and had such a better strategy than those stupid clumsy Russk...er, Soviets.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
By the way, the ship shown in front of the Hungnam demolition appears to be an APD, a Fast Attack Transport converted from a Rudderow Class Destroyer Escort. The Rudderow Class included the USS Samuel B. Roberts.

APD's were used by UDT teams as well as by US Marine or US Army Ranger battalions to secure bridgeheads on Pacific islands.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Obama takes every Presidential test pass/fail. Since the pundits who grade him will never give him a fail, he gets a pass. It is the nation that gets the fail but the nation did reelect him which was certainly a system fail. At the time I put his win down to a fear of competence among the nation's elites. They want Q-eternity and contracts to study meaningless things and an expanding bureaucracy and endless grants. They want more influence in D.C., regulations out the wazoo and and added regulation of the wazoo. Mostly they want an economy run on the basis of their connections. Competence in high office is a threat to these mediocrities. Do they care about having a nation to exploit? Certainly. Unfortunately they won't notice it is gone until it is gone.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
When we allowed people who majored in gender-neutral postmodern English to be given a "degree" and then gave them magic government sinecures with no real metrics, protected them from competition from talented people, and paid them more than the average private sector worker, we created a new clerisy class. They will let the nation be destroyed before they give up their cherished edifice. Look around you and you'll see it's true.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I am all in favor of burning or blowing up anything that is not economically worth flying out.

But, among the stuff we need to destroy is all of the toys we gave our real enemies, the Pakistani security establishment. The Taliban are their creation and are operating under their direction.

It would be a shame if we left without destroying the mountain of military equipment we have given them.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Let them know if we have to come back, we'll be aligned with their enemy--India.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Prophetic words from Uncle Bob:

You must leave now, take what you need, you think will last
But whatever you wish to keep, you better grab it fast
Yonder stands your orphan with his gun
Crying like a fire in the sun
Look out the saints are comin' through
And it's all over now, Baby Blue.

The highway is for gamblers, better use your sense
Take what you have gathered from coincidence
The empty handed painter from your streets
Is drawing crazy patterns on your sheets
This sky, too, is folding under you
And it's all over now, Baby Blue.

All your seasick sailors, they are rowing home
Your empty handed armies, are all going home
Your lover who just walked out the door
Has taken all his blankets from the floor
The carpet, too, is moving under you
And it's all over now, Baby Blue.

Leave your stepping stones behind, something calls for you
Forget the dead you've left, they will not follow you
The vagabond who's rapping at your door
Is standing in the clothes that you once wore
Strike another match, go start a new
And it's all over now, Baby Blue.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Obama chose to move large land forces into Afghanistan

Obambus I, Emperor of the Unlimited Bernankian Resources, Killer of Osama, and Tender-Hearted Would-Be Savior of Syrian Chillen.

--

I would also point out that just this week the announcement was made that the Boeing C-17 program (born McDonnell Douglas) has delivered their *last* transport to the US government, and after completing another handfull for foreign orders the Long Beach, CA plant will be closed, after building aircraft since at least the DC-3. The US has no other comparable aircraft in production nor planning. We will wear out what we have evacuating Afghanistan. And then we will have NO oversized air transport. The C-17 has been a very successful program, I suppose it is 1990 technology and could use an update but there IS no update in US aerospace, and it is a far cry better than nothing. Good thing nobody is planning any future US wars, huh.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
We can do some math...figure that an MRAP weighs about 30 tons. At sea level with a nice long takeoff run from Long Beach, a C-17 could carry two apiece. Hot and high conditions in and out of shorter runways--one MRAP apiece. Multiply that by the number of MRAPs in country to get number of sorties. Multiply by flight hours, round trip, per sortie. Factor in structural fatigue due to evasive maneuvering in and out of locations in country. Account for equipment failure and resultant operational losses from a greatly increased mission tempo. And, oh yeah, assume that a significant portion of those 400 MANPADS that mysteriously went missing in Libya show up gift wrapped in Helmand Province and elsewhere and resultanti increase in "attrition" losses. And we are talking about just one class of heavy equipment. What could go wrong? ;0)
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Re: "pinpricks" and the Gulf of Tonkin

http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/NHC/skunks.htm#cn29

"The major operational components of OPLAN 34A were airborne operations that inserted intelligence and commando teams into North Vietnam, and maritime operations (MAROPS) which consisted of hit-and-run raids on coastal installations and facilities. These latter missions were known under the operational title Timberwork. The teams were made up of mostly South Vietnamese Special Forces, known as Luc Luong Dac Biet or Biet Kich, with some foreign mercenaries (mostly Chinese and Koreans) to crew the attack craft. The American involvement, though extensive in the planning, training, and logistics portions, was minimized to achieve the usual "non-attribution" status in case the raids were publicized by the North. No Americans were allowed to participate in the actual raids.

Despite all the planning, there was little confidence in the effectiveness of the OPLAN 34A operations. CIA chief John McCone suggested that they "will not seriously affect the DRV or cause them to change their policies." Defense Secretary McNamara, when he returned from an inspection trip to South Vietnam in March 1964, described OPLAN 34A as "a program so limited that it is unlikely to have any significant effect." The operations were described by other officials as "pinpricks" and "pretty small potatoes."
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I think the US Armed Forces will be forced to fight their way out of Afghanistan. I'm sure the Taliban would insist on either that or getting paid a humiliating bribe – and the key part is the humiliation.

I am reminded of the march of the Ten Thousand.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ten_Thousand_(Greek)

It must be frustrating to fight in a war that your political leaders have decided to lose, and knowing full well that your leaders will pin the blame for defeat upon you and not themselves.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
So, was the Surge and/or COIN that Obama insisted, a success?

Or we stopped tallying win-loss to save his face, as you said "Obama (simply) does not make mistakes"?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
What commander chose this rout out of the Middle East?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Ahhh, I see what you did there. ;)

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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