Life – Terror. Ecstasy. Fight. Denial. Flight. Failure. PAIN. Forgiveness. Reconciliation. Hope. Love. Peace – Death.
Some people pay the ultimate cost of war, with their lives. For others, war is an incredibly, lucrative business.
Staggering Costs – U.S. Military Equipment Left Behind in Afghanistan
Last night (31/8/21), I watched the BBC’s coverage of the final hours, minutes of the US forces Afghanistan withdrawal. The BBC News broadcast showed a stark, final image of a lone soldier (reportedly the last US soldier to leave Afghanistan, crossing the runway to board a US Airforce cargo plane.
The image, tinted green, looked like a screen shot from a Coppola Movie, captured using, sophisticated, night vision goggles. An hour later we were shown, the ‘victors’, Taliban Soldiers, dressed in (brand new), US Combat fatigues, fully armed with the very latest model, US M16 assault riffles and US night vision Googles, They were inspecting ‘their newly captured airport’ from, the most up-to-date, open top, US military vehicles currently available.
The spoils of war? This is despite the ‘The State’ claim that ALL equipment, weapons left behind had been rendered useless, decommissioned?
Since the Authorization for Use of Military Force in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks was signed on September 18, 2001 by president George W Bush, the US spent $2.26 trillion on the war in Afghanistan, or $300 million a day. Roughly $800 billion was funnelled into direct war-fighting costs to train the now vanquished Afghan army.
The war effort in Afghanistan was effectively a privatised endeavour, with the US military relying on private security contractors to power the logistics of America’s “forever war”. (Many foreign contractors are now stranded in places like Dubai following the rapid US withdrawal.)
The U.S. provided an estimated $83 billion worth of training and equipment to Afghan security forces since 2001. This year, alone, the U.S. military aid to Afghan forces was $3 billion.
But what is the full ‘financial’ cost, (let alone the humanitarian cost of a now redundant, 20 year folly-War), of the literal mountains of military equipment still in Afghanistan due to Bidens self imposed, relentless political agenda to remove the US by the anniversary of 9/11 (no matter what?).
It was a profiteering exercise that stretched till the very end.
Amid news of the US-announced withdrawal by the end of August, a parting $450 million deal for 37 UH-60 helicopters was shortly struck.
UH-60s are manufactured by Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin-owned firm.
As Alexander Cockburn wrote last month, such a deal was yet another “reminder of the war’s real, squalid history, so tragic for so many Afghans, so profitable for some Americans.”
The Biden Administration is now hiding key audits on Afghan military equipment.
This month, the Taliban seized Black Hawk helicopters and A-29 Super Tucano attack aircraft. As late as last month, Afghanistan’s Ministry of Défense posted photos on social media of seven newly arrived helicopters from the U.S., Reuters reported.
Black Hawk helicopters can cost up to $21 million.
In 2013, the U.S. placed an order for 20 A-29 Super Tucano attack aircraft for $427 million – that’s $21.3 million for each plane. Other specialized helicopters can cost up to $37 million each.
The Afghan air force contracted for C-208 light attack airplanes in March 2018: seven planes for $84.6 million, or $12.1 million each. The airplanes are very sophisticated and carry HELLFIRE missiles, anti-tank missiles and other weaponry.
This week, auditors at OpenTheBooks.com reposted two key reports on the U.S. war chest of military gear in Afghanistan that had disappeared from federal websites.
U.S. taxpayers paid for two (comprehensive) audits of the costs ‘of the war in Afghanistan’.
Government Accountability Office (GAO) audit of U.S. provided military gear in Afghanistan (August 2017)
Special Inspector General For Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) audit of $174 million in lost ScanEagle drones (July 2020)
After publication, the GAO spokesman responded to requests from Forbes for comment, “the State Department requested Forbes temporarily remove and review reports on Afghanistan to protect recipients of US assistance that may be identified through our reports and thus subject to retribution.” However, these reports only have numbers and no recipient information.
Forbes replied; unless noted, when estimating “acquisition value,” our source is the Department Logistics Agency (DLA) and their comprehensive databases of military equipment.
Vehicles and airplanes
Between 2003 and 2016, the U.S. purchased and provided 75,898 vehicles and 208 aircraft, to the Afghan army and security forces, according to a Government Accountability Office report.
Breakdown of estimated vehicle costs
- Armoured personnel carriers such as the M113A2 cost $170,000 each and recent purchases of the M577A2 post carrier cost $333,333 each.
- Mine resistant vehicles ranges from $412,000 to $767,000. The total cost could range between $382 million to $711 million.
- Recovery vehicles such as the ‘truck, wrecker’ cost between for the base model $168,960 and $880,674 for super strength versions.
- Medium range tactical vehicles include 5-ton cargo and general transport trucks were priced at $67,139. However, the family of MTV heavy vehicles had prices ranging from $235,500 to $724,820 each. Cargo trucks to transport airplanes cost $800,865.
- Humvees – ambulance type (range from $37,943 to $142,918 with most at $96,466); cargo type, priced at $104,682. Utility Humvees were typically priced at $91,429. However, the 12,000 lb. troop transport version cost up to $329,000.
- Light tactical vehicles: Fast attack combat vehicles ($69,400); and passenger motor vehicles ($65,500). All terrain 4-wheel vehicles go up to $42,273 in the military databases.
The PC-12 intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance airplanes use the latest in technology. Having these planes fall into Taliban control is disconcerting. Civilian models sell new for approximately $5 million each and the military planes could sell for many times that price.
Basic fixed-wing airplanes range in price from $3.1 million to $22 million in the DLA database.
Helicopter prices also range widely depending on the technology, purpose, and equipment. For example, according to the DLA, general purpose helicopters range in price from $92,000 to $922,000. Observation helicopters can cost $92,000 and utility helicopters up to $922,000.
Even if the Taliban can’t fly the (decommissioned) planes, the parts are valuable. For example, just the control stick for certain military planes has an acquisition value of $17,808 and a fuel tank sells for up to $35,000.
In 2017, the U.S. military lost $174 million in drones that were part of the attempt to help the Afghan National Army (ANA) defend itself. But the ANA didn’t immediately use the drones and then lost track of them. How can you just ‘lose’ $174 millions worth of Drones? This week, the SIGAR audit on the $174 million drone loss disappeared from its website.
Weapons, communications equipment, and night vision googles
Since 2003 the U.S. gave Afghan forces at least 600,000 infantry weapons, including M16 rifles, 162,000 pieces of communication equipment, and 16,000 night-vision goggle devices, according to the GAO report.
The howitzer is the modern cannon for the U.S. military and each unit can cost up to $500,000; however most are in the $200,000 price range. At the higher end, there’s GPS guidance on fired shells.
A common price of a M16 rifle is $749, according to DLA. Adding a grenade launcher can push the price of the M16 to $12,032. M4 carbine rifles are slightly more expensive with unit prices as high as $1,278.
Just the sights on night-vision sniper rifle scopes can run as high as $35,000, however, most vary in price between $5,000 and $10,000.
Costs of other types of weaponry provided to Afghan forces
- Machine guns, i.e. the M240 model, were priced between $6,600 and $9,000 each.
- Grenade launchers cost between $1,000 and $5,000 each; however, in 2020, the manufacture sold 53 for $15,000 each.
- Army shotguns were acquired for only $150 each, according to DLA.
- Military pistols cost $320 each, such as the .40 calibre Glock Generation 3.
Each Aerostat surveillance balloon costs $8.9 million. Each ScanEagle drone costs approximately $1.4 million according to recent procurement news. Even as late at 2021, U.S. appropriations for the Wolfhounds radio monitoring systems approached $874,000.
Night vision devices: The total cost for the 16,000 night-vision goggles alone could run as high as $80 million. Individually, the high-tech goggles were priced between $2,742 and $5,000 by the DLA. Other equipment like image intensifiers are commonly priced at $10,747 each; however, sophisticated models run as high as $66,000 each.
Radio equipment: the cost of equipment adds up – receiver-transmitters ($210,651); sophisticated radio sets ($61,966); amplifiers ($28,165); repeater sets ($28,527); and deployment sets to identify frequencies run up to $18,908.
The ‘State’ claim that ALL equipment, left behind is ‘useless’ has been decommissioned. However, if we consider the chaotic pace of the withdrawal and the scale of equipment requiring decommissioning is such a ‘botch-job’ even possible?
The Taliban might not (currently) have the expertise or technologies to re-program (re-commission) some of the equipment left behind, but if history has taught us anything then they will soon ‘learn’? Or, it could be sold off, on a scale similar to the Soviet Union collapse and the subsequent ‘arms’ sales to the west and other countries, criminals, organised crime organisations, waiting, eagerly to acquire the very latest, U.S. weapons technology on a scale never seen before.
And there’s more… years 2017 through 2019
From 2017 to 2019, the U.S. also gave Afghan forces 7,035 machine guns, 4,702 Humvees, 20,040 hand grenades, 2,520 bombs and 1,394 grenade launchers, according to the since removed 2020 SIGAR report, reported by The Hill.
An unnamed official told Reuters that current intelligence assessment was that the Taliban took control of more than 2,000 armoured vehicles, including American Humvees, and as many as 40 aircraft that may include UH-60 Black Hawks, scout attack helicopters and ScanEagle military drones.
“We don’t have a complete picture, obviously, of where every article of defense materials has gone, but certainly a fair amount of it has fallen into the hands of the Taliban,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Tuesday 23/8/21, The Hill reported. “And obviously, we don’t have a sense that they are going to readily hand it over to us at the airport.”
US Republican Senators have demanded that there be a full count of U.S. military equipment left in Afghanistan. In a letter to Secretary of defence Lloyd Austin, the lawmakers said they were “horrified” to see photos of Taliban militants taking hold of military equipment, including Black Hawk helicopters.
“It is unconscionable that high-tech military equipment paid for by U.S. taxpayers has fallen into the hands of the Taliban and their terrorist allies,” the lawmakers said in the letter. “Securing U.S. assets should have been among the top priorities for the U.S. Department of defence prior to announcing the withdrawal from Afghanistan.”
Well that horse has well and truly bolted…. But, are there any winners in this?
The US are the world’s largest defence spender by a wide margin, American companies account for almost 60 percent of total arms sales by the world’s 100 largest defence contractors.
Many of them have been cashing in on huge checks from the Pentagon’s war budget for years, with a majority of the near $5 trillion spent on the wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq transferred to military contractors, whose workers outnumbered soldiers in Afghanistan three to one.
In addition to giants like Lockheed Martin, DynCorp, Academi (formerly Blackwater), Black & Veatch – and oil companies like ExxonMobil which shipped the fuel on which the army runs – are just some to have profited immensely from Washington’s lucrative contracts.
To understand the sheer scale of the contractor economy across three theatres where their footprint is most prominent – Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria – the US Department of Défense confirmed using the services of over 27,000 contractors as of the fourth fiscal quarter of 2020.
An investigation by the watchdog Project on Government Oversight found that between 2008-2018 around 380 high-ranking officials and officers had become government lobbyists, defence contractor consultants, or board members and executives within two years of leaving the military.
In the 2005 documentary Why We Fight, retired Air Force lieutenant colonel Karen Kwiatkowski said: “American people who have a son or a daughter that’s going to be deployed…they look at the cost-benefit, and they go ‘I don’t think that’s good.’ But when politicians who understand contracts, future contracts, when they look at war, they have a different cost-benefit analysis.”
To put this war profiteering into perspective, if one had purchased $10,000 of stocks and evenly divided among those top five defence contractors – Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics – it would now be worth almost $100,000, a greater return than the rest of the S&P over the last two decades.
War = Profit
Thanks for Reading
Peace (I wish)