October 15, 2012
Credit: Credit: USAF
Francis Tusa London
There will be a “final act” in the NATO-led counter-insurgency operation in Afghanistan: In 2015 or later, a logistician will place a customs seal on a container or a pallet of equipment, and it will be loaded onto a truck or an aircraft for movement to an Afghan location where it can be aggregated for shipment back to Europe or the U.S.
Signs are already emerging that the costs of this operation could well be far higher than had been expected.
Recent U.K. figures released to Parliament suggest the average cost of moving a classic 20-ft. ISO container from Afghanistan back to Britain would be £5,000-12,000 ($8,000-19,000) for a land-transported container, and £10,000-30,000 by air directly back to the U.K. or flown to a staging point and then moved by rail or sea.
This is far higher than previously released data that estimated £4,000 for a ground/rail-shipped ISO container, and £8,000 for airlift. The U.K. has somewhere around 12,000-15,000 ISO containers worth of equipment in Afghanistan, together with more than 500 vehicles. As all “warlike equipment,” or sensitive items that the allies do not want to “go missing” en route to their native countries will have to be moved by air, the costs already were high.
A rough calculation of the move for the U.K., puts it at £200 million for the container-loads, and an extra £50-75 million for outsized airlift. This compares with an original bill of “around £100 million pounds.” These calculations assume that everything runs smoothly for any drawdown, and there is not an overwhelming reliance on air movements. But that might be a tall order: 80% of all equipment with British forces in Afghanistan today was moved by air, because ground lines of communication were just not there.
Meanwhile, other Helmand-based NATO forces have 4,000-6,000 containers' worth of equipment, and 400-plus vehicles. The total U.S. military presence in Afghanistan has a footprint of some 20,000 containers of equipment, and 30,000-40,000 vehicles of all types.