The Things They Couldn’t Carry Home

Max Fisher considers the implications of the massive scrapping of military hardware:

It’s not because the vehicles are old or don’t work – they’re relatively new and appear to work well. The cost of moving them is just not worth the expense. And, maybe more than that, the United States doesn’t see itself as needing every single one of the 24,000 MRAPs designed for combat over sprawling, difficult terrain against bomb-making insurgents. That’s not really a mission the country is investing in anymore. …

The decision to turn these jaw-droppingly expensive vehicles into scrap metal reflects, [Ernesto] Londoño points out, “a presumptive end to an era of protracted ground wars.” It’s hard to miss the symbolism: This military tool, which cost billions to design and was launched to great fanfare just a few years ago as the perfect tool for America’s mission in Afghanistan, is just not as useful anymore. That’s not just a sign of how expensive it is to ship stuff out of Afghanistan, it’s a reminder of how radically America’s long-term interests have changed in the past six years.

Harold Maass notes the ironic justification for the move:

The decision to shred giant trucks and scrap other material was actually the product of a debate on how to reduce waste. Some military leaders wanted to bring home more equipment, but they were overruled because the cost of shipping heavy equipment out of war-torn, landlocked Afghanistan was too high.

Ed Morrissey, meanwhile, focuses on the image that the US projects by abandoning these vehicles:

If we were leaving as a successful pacification/occupation force, we would have allowed ourselves plenty of time to retrieve our equipment despite the logistical challenges that presents.  The need to have that heavy equipment on the ground in an accelerated withdrawal schedule points to the fact that we have not in fact succeeded in Afghanistan in anything other than achieving a stalemate after twelve years of fighting.

We wouldn’t be the first world power to end up leaving under those circumstances, and we can argue that we did better than the Russians and the colonial British in leaving on our own terms.  The haste of our exit, as exemplified by our abandonment of billions in military resources, makes that argument a little tougher to make, and in that region, the image of weakness is not a good impression to make.