By Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden, American Forces Press ServiceApril 5, 2010
WASHINGTON (April 2, 2010) -- The Army command charged with management of the logistical aspect of the Iraq drawdown and Afghanistan buildup looks to be ahead of schedule, Lt. Gen. William G. Webster Jr., said today.
President Barack Obama announced in December that the U.S. would increase its footprint in Afghanistan by 30,000 troops. Initial estimates suggested that the buildup of troops and equipment would take about 18 months in order to maintain a responsible drawdown of some of the same equipment in Iraq.
But after months of putting those plans into action, troops heading to Afghanistan will be able to obtain their equipment sooner than expected, Webster, commander of U.S. Central Command's 3rd Army said at a Pentagon news conference here.
"Through the efficiencies that we've found and the hard work of the entire [Defense Department] and our allies, we now will be able to move the 5,000-plus vehicles that are needed for the [Afghanistan] buildup by the end of the summer," he said.
That's about a year ahead of schedule to equip inbound troops with mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles, known as MRAPs. Basic humvees and other tactical vehicles are part of the changeover, too, Webster said.
Some of the equipment in Iraq is too worn for deployment to Afghanistan and will be sent stateside for training requirements. Other equipment in Iraq will be left there for the Iraqi military, he said.
Much of the U.S. equipment leaving Iraq is being refurbished in Kuwait where 3rd Army's theater headquarters is located. Afghanistan-bound equipment will be reconfigured to fit that country's terrain and environment, he said.
"The process is complex, but we have a great team at 3rd Army, and we are executing a well-thought-out plan," Webster said. "We have the flexibility to adjust to accommodate the responsible drawdown timeline while setting conditions for success throughout our area of responsibility."
Success also comes to the American taxpayer. Webster explained that 3rd Army does a cost-benefit analysis of every piece of equipment in Iraq, including the costs of transporting it out.
So far, redistribution of vehicles and equipment to the United States and Afghanistan from Iraq has resulted in more than $992 million in defense savings, he said.
The Afghanistan buildup is the largest in terms of equipment since World War II, Webster noted. When the drawdown operation in Iraq began in June about 2.8 million items of equipment, along with 88,000 containers, were identified.
As of March 29, 35 percent of material and equipment, as well as 21,000 troops, have been redeployed from Iraq since the president's announcement. Nearly half of the equipment due out of Iraq has been identified or is being processed for Afghanistan, Webster said.
While support of a responsible Iraq drawdown is critical, 3rd Army's priority is to support the Afghanistan buildup. More than 2,600 reconfigured MRAPs, including the all-terrain version, already have arrived in Afghanistan, the general said.
"Our top priority is to support the 30,000 additional troops the president has ordered to Afghanistan, and getting them the resources they need to execute their mission," Webster said. "Every day, 3rd Army is shipping more life-saving vehicles to Afghanistan to meet the warfighter requirements."