It’s a delicate balance keeping troops supplied while downsizing in Afghanistan. Then, add the mandate to do it in the most economical and efficient way.
That’s why troops in Afghanistan, including the commander Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, are eating an MRE for one of their three daily meals. There are a lot of prepackaged Meals Ready to Eat stored in Afghanistan and they are not worth the cost to ship home.
Despite the uncertainty over how many U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan at the end of 2014, logistics experts at U.S. Central Command are already closing bases and moving out equipment and troops.
Retired Marine officer Scott Anderson is the civilian in charge of logistics and engineering for CENTCOM.
The time differential between Afghanistan and Tampa is 9.5 hours during daylight saving time. That means Anderson comes to work very early in the morning, more like late at night, to coordinate with his military counterparts in theater.
A digital board displaying several time zones is mounted above a large flat screen TV in his office at U.S. Central Command on MacDill Air Force Base.
And the clock is ticking for Anderson and his logistician counterparts from the Pentagon to the Pakistan’s Port of Karachi. They have just over a year to ship, transfer or destroy tons of equipment originally sent to Afghanistan to support troops.
Here are some details Anderson shared on their progress:
- They are 60 percent complete with base closures in Afghanistan.
- At the peak, there were 360 bases in Afghanistan, now; there are fewer than 44 bases.
- Afghan Security Forces identified the bases they wanted and asked the U.S. to build some new ones.
- U.S. engineers are training Afghans on base operations like the electrical grid and water systems.
- A snapshot of how much equipment is coming home: for the period of Sept. 10, 2013 to Jan. 31, 2014, 7500 vehicles and about 1,500 shipping containers will be moved out.
- Troops are eating a prepackaged MRE (Meal Ready to Eat) for one of their three daily meals to use up stores that are too expensive to ship home.
- The cheapest way to ship equipment out of Afghanistan is to truck it to the Port of Karachi in Pakistan and sail it home. Currently, 70 percent is coming out that way.
- There are two options for equipment too old or too expensive to ship home: transfer it to the Afghan Security Forces or destroy it if it is deemed it the equipment would only be a burden to the Afghans.
Anderson said his biggest challenge is to not draw-down too quickly. He does not want a scenario where a soldier doesn’t have a meal or enough fuel in his vehicle.