Sunday, April 06, 2014

U.S. MRAPs in Pakistan

The U.S. is considering the future for its up to 2000 mine-resistant ambush protected (MRAP) vehicles worth $1 million per unit in Afghanistan after the withdrawal in 2014. Multiple countries (i.e. India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan) expressed their interests in getting the MRAPs from the American troops to leave Afghanistan by the end of this year. However, many had to back out due to high transportation costs of transferring expensive heavy strategic equipment. Only neighboring Pakistan is ready to undertake the full responsibility, due to the possible escalation of the situation with Taliban as the U.S. leaves Afghanistan. Whereas, India feels insecure to have militarily equipped Pakistan on its border, if the U.S. Department of State, eventually, hands the vehicles to the Pakistani government.

The MRAPs in Afghanistan, together with other military equipment, are filed as part of the Excess Defense Articles (EDA) program and can be accessed worldwide. The problem with the military equipment in Afghanistan is in its cost-ineffectiveness when it comes to transporting it back home, to the U.S. According to the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), who manages the deployment and transportation of the military equipment, the U.S. Army alone has about $25 billion military equipment sitting in Afghanistan right now; and, only 76% of the equipment was decided to ship back to the U.S. which accounts $2-3 billion for transportation and another $8-9 billion -- for repairment. The remaining equipment is not worth even shipping and was labeled as "excess" or a waste of additional $7 billion for shipping home.

Among all the interested parties, the Pakistani government, so far, seems to be the most "appropriate" or logical one to receive the MRAPs in order to continue fighting the Talibans after the U.S.' withdrawal. Moreover, this possible "beneficiary" country is ready to cover the transportation costs (which should be much less due to its proximity to Afghan borders). The U.S. State Department, which approves the decisions on how to deal with the excess, has been considering the Pakistani ally as the best alternative for the current case of the EDA. Pakistani government has been highly supportive of the U.S. Military Mission in Afghanistan and shared the program implementation while fighting against terrorism (i.e. with Al-Qaeda - 2011 "War on Terror" success with Osama bin Laden's assassination) and is expected to continue ensuring security in the region after 2014.

Currently, Indian government is raising claims about possible irresponsibility of the neighboring government in use of the MRAPs and other military equipment, especially, against Indians. And, this fear has its grounds even in the contemporary history of relations between the competing and struggling with insecurity two, India and Pakistan. Even if the countries have been able to find common language in the fight against terrorists (sharing intelligence and exchanging best practices) in the last three decades; however, it is quite early to state about re-established diplomatic and friendly relations between the competitors over disputed territories in the shared region. And, the fact that the two are the U.S. allies has not increased the level of trust of either to the other, even in security terms.

The final decision the DoD will implement soon will, definitely, have an effect on the India-Pakistan relations. At the same time, the Afghan government, unable to keep the MRAPs within its territory due to unbearable costs, will have to ensure stability in the country after the U.S. troops' leave. The new elections are seen to be a new hope for stability to the Afghan people; whereas, the Talibans continue their attacks destabilising the situation and, therefore, increasing vulnerability of the entire region. Possibly, a joint cooperation between the neighboring countries under terroristic threat and mutual response to the common enemy will improve the security situation in the region and contribute to the long-awaited socio-economic development.

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