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Afghanistan retrograde moving fast

Pakistan ground routes remain closed for now

May. 2, 2013 - 02:09PM   |  
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Despite a continued wait to use Pakistan ground supply routes to shuttle military equipment out of Afghanistan, the Marine Corps retrograde and reset is moving fast and well under budget, the Corps’ deputy commandant for installations and logistics said.

Speaking at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies in April, Lt. Gen. William Faulkner said the reset is a “good news story.” The Corps has reduced the total number of equipment items remaining in Afghanistan by 60 percent in the past 15 months, and now has just 31,000 major pieces of equipment in country — a manageable figure, and far less than the more than one million items the Army has yet to ship back.

The bad news: the cheaper, more efficient Pakistan Ground Lines of Communication still await approval for use, Faulkner said, and will play a severely limited role in the retrograde even when they do get the green light.

“We’re certainly not going to put anything on there that’s pilferable: we’re not going to put any weapons systems; we’re not going to put any radios, any communications,” Faulkner said. “The criteria are pretty narrow in terms of what can go back through Pakistan.”

The Pak GLOC, as it’s called, was officially reopened in July 2012 after extensive negotiation between U.S. and Pakistani officials, following the abrupt closure of the routes in Nov. 2011. U.S. and NATO forces have made limited use of the routes since then, but the Marines have continued to ship out equipment by air on C-17 Globemaster jets, which shuttle the items to ports in Dubai and elsewhere. The equipment is then loaded on ships bound for home.

When the Marines do get approval to use the Pakistan routes, they plan to send large quantities of AM-2 matting, the material used to build expeditionary airfields in theater, Faulkner said.

Meanwhile, the Corps has completed its retrograde from the 2009 Afghanistan surge, and may be on track to finish its reset up to $1 billion under budget. Faulkner said the current estimate for the project is something over $2 billion, rather than the $3.2 billion that was estimated last year.

“Since that time, the completion of reset actions within our depots, coupled with reset procurement and determination of the enduring requirement for the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle has reduced the liability,” Marine spokesman Capt. Kendra Motz said in an email. “ ... This is an ongoing endeavor as we continue to review our processes and procedures to further reduce the liability amount.”

Much of the surge equipment now sits aboard Marine Corps Logistics bases Albany, Ga., and Barstow, Calif., awaiting refurbishment and reset so it can be sent back to the force, Motz said.

Meanwhile, the equipment items remaining in Afghanistan are being inventoried, Motz said, in preparation for the next major push of gear out of Afghanistan.

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