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US military may hand over Afghan war equipment to Pakistan

Updated March 17, 2014

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The MRAP is described as, "the backbone of the US military’s vehicle fleet in Afghanistan". -Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons
The MRAP is described as, "the backbone of the US military’s vehicle fleet in Afghanistan". -Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

With the war in Afghanistan winding down, news reports suggest that the United States may dispose $7 billion in military equipment by handing it over to Pakistan.

The Washington Post (WP) reported that the potential move could be, "part of an effort by the Pentagon to unload excess military supplies to US allies at no cost".

The report said that discussions on this issue has been taking place over several months between American and Pakistani officials.

One motive for this potential transaction is that the US does not want to pay to ship out leftover military hardware from the conflict in neighboring Afghanistan.

The WP report gives detail that although a final decision on this issue has not been taken, Pakistan has particular interest in acquiring the US Army’s mine-resistant ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicles.

The MRAP vehicles could be used by Pakistan's military in its fight against Taliban insurgents within its tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

The WP report describes the MRAP as,"the backbone of the US military’s vehicle fleet in Afghanistan...designed to protect American troops from explosive devices".

Pentagon leaders have said it would potentially cost more than $100,000 per vehicle to ship MRAP vehicles back to the US.

The US government is offering the vehicles to allies for free on an “as-is, where-is” basis, said the report quoting a Pentagon spokesman.

A Pakistani security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the military was also interested in acquiring night-vision and communications equipment.

Siemon T. Wezeman, a senior researcher and South Asia expert at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, is quoted in the article as stating that the MRAP deal could be beneficial to both countries.

Wezeman says that the US military is wary about leaving behind surplus equipment in Afghanistan, fearing the Afghan army's ability to fend off the Taliban insurgency.

“There is a feeling in the US that the Afghan army is not totally reliable, so it may be safer to just park them in Pakistan,” Wezeman is quoted as saying.

However there is apprehension on the part of the US to make the equipment transfer fearing the impact it could have on its own relations with Afghanistan and Pakistan's arch-rival India.

Wezeman however doubts that India would seriously object “to a few hundred MRAPs ending up in Pakistan.”

He said that the vehicles are built to fight insurgencies and would have little value in a major cross-border war involving tanks and warplanes.

Another flipside is that Pakistan would itself put limits to the amount of equipment they would be willing to accept.

“Pakistan won’t become America’s junkyard,” the WP report quoted an official as saying.