US to Hand Over Iraq Bases and Equipment Worth Billions

With the war in Iraq over, and only three months left until the last United States troops are due to leave, the government and military officials have to

U.S. Army soldiers prepare for a joint patrol with the Iraqi Army at an area near their military base in Kut, southeast of Baghdad September 20, 2011. U.S troops are scheduled to pull out of the country by the end of this year, according to a 2008 security pact between the United States and Iraq. Picture taken September 20, 2011. REUTERS/Mohammed Ameen (IRAQ – Tags: CONFLICT MILITARY POLITICS)

decide what to do with billions of dollars worth of equipment. While most citizens believe that it would be easiest to send it home, the decision has been made to leave an estimate 3.47 million pieces of equipment, worth over 313 million dollars with the Iraqi government. Pentagon officials have estimated that shipping the items home would cost an astounding 600 million dollars, but they assure us that they are not leaving anything of significant value behind.

Major General Thomas Richardson, the chief logistics officer in Iraq, said that U.S. forces had transferred items worth $157 million dollars before the withdrawal was official. Since September 1, 2010, they have given away equipment worth an additional $247 million. Pentagon officials note that the heaviest volume of transfers will occur from now until December, since there is still a large amount of materials left in Iraq. There are four different categories of the items that they can leave with the Iraqi government, and none of these includes lethal weapons.

There are still many problems that lie ahead with the transfer. One of the major issues is that there is a large amount of unaccounted-for equipment that is left over. Pentagon officials believe that in demand items like forklifts with laser lights options, will show up suddenly, at the last minute. This would leave little time for it to be shipped back, or for government officials to deal with the problem. Items that are needed back in the United States may be left in Iraq just because there is not enough time.

In addition, equipment has been accumulating in Iraq since combat operations began in 2003. Many of the items may not be logged properly, and therefore there is little accountability for what is actually there.  A Government Accountability Office report that was issued early this month even warned that, “units sometimes turn in such equipment without paperwork and have even removed identifying markings such as serial numbers to avoid retribution.”

The largest, and most expensive items, being left to the Iraqis would no doubt be the bases that were built. In 2005 alone, $1.2 billion dollars in base building contracts were signed, and this number definitely does not include all the bases that have been built before or after 2005. Many forward operating bases are also being taken over by the Iraqis, and they come with everything – from water and fuel tanks to office equipment and dining facilities.

While forces have not yet evacuated a major base, people are wondering what the Iraqis will do with them. In 2009, when a military outpost was turned over to the Iraqis, it was looted within hours. An Iraqi entrepreneur said to NPR that there is a thriving black market in U.S. items. “The Americans turn over every base to the Iraqi army and police — and they are all thieves,” he said

Despite the vast takeover by the Iraqis, United States officials are not leaving everything behind. In the military’s biggest logistic effort in history, much of the most lethal and valuable military equipment is being shipped out. 1.5 million items have been removed over the past 12 months, and there are still approximately 800,000 that must still be sent home. Johnson, the spokesperson for U.S. forces in Iraq stated that, “It’s an enormous task, but we have no major concerns on our ability to meet the necessary timelines.”

The concern about the transfer of equipment is not that the Iraqis will get items that could be harmful, but it is more about the overwhelming loss that the United States will have. Our government spends billions of dollars on this war, and this transfer means that we will never see this money again. If the equipment was shipped home, we would be able to use it, and the value would not stop. Instead, the items are being handed over. Essentially, our efforts and the billions of dollars spent, was used to fund the Iraqi military. Everything that we spent in Iraq was borrowed money, so we will still be paying for it long after we have completely evacuated.