Thursday 11 April 2013

How did this lot get here? And who's taking it away?

Waiting for a lift home

The cost of returning more than £6 billion-worth of British military equipment from Afghanistan at the end of 2014 – including 3,500 hi-tech and heavily armoured reconnaissance and troop-carrying vehicles – could reach half a billion pounds, according to evidence submitted to a Parliamentary inquiry published this week.
The Commons Defence Select Committee notes that there are presently more than 11,000 container-loads of military equipment in Afghanistan, including 350 Foxhound reconnaissance vehicles worth almost £1 million each, storerooms full of  weapons and ammunition, dozens of rotor and fixed wing aircraft – and everything else Britain’s 9,000 troops need to function efficiently.
For the US forces, the problems are even more stark; with an estimated $36 billion-worth of equipment in country – made up of 750,000 pieces of major military equipment - it is likely to cost something in the region of $6 billion to bring back home. A detailed assessment of the issues, from the US GAO can be found here.
With just over 18 months to go before British troops withdraw, equipment is still arriving in country. A plan for bringing the equipment home is not expected to be announced for another six weeks, according to the MOD. Negotiations with countries to the north of Afghanistan over transit routes are not expected to be completed until July at the earliest. A new transit deal with Pakistan has recently been agreed, but it remains a dangerous route.
Unlike the British withdrawal from Iraq, where much of the equipment was transported by road before being loaded onto ships in Kuwait, Afghanistan is a land-locked country with poor infrastructure. Equipment can only leave via one of three long and dangerous land routes, or via an expensive air bridge. “There’s little point in bringing back gear that costs more to transport than it’s worth,” said an MOD official.
MOD officials told the committee that ‘only’ 6,500 containers will eventually be brought home, with the contents of the remaining 40 per cent being either destroyed, donated, sold or consumed.  Much of the remaining ‘warlike’ equipment will not be allowed to travel northwards through Uzbekistan and then by rail through Russia, whilst other equipment is too secret or strategically important to trust to the roads, where it could be attacked or stolen by insurgents.
Instead, Britain will have to compete with other ISAF countries to charter one of the small number of massive Antonov AN-124 transport aircraft that are available on the commercial market. If the equipment of all ISAF forces is taken into account, it is estimated that more than 100,000 containers-worth of military equipment will have to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
The Defence Select Committee report does not provide an overall cost for removing military equipment from Afghanistan, although it says each container load can cost up to £12,000 to send by road and rail and up to £30,000 if it has to be sent by air. Defence Secretary Philip Hammond initially said the total cost will be around £100 million – later updated to £300 million - but evidence from Brigadier David Martin, who retired last year as head of the Army’s Support Chain Management, says such a figure “looks very optimistic”. He believes that a total of £500 million will be closer to the mark, although even that figure may eventually be too low.
Defence analyst Francis Tusa, who also gave evidence to the select committee, was equally sceptical about both the MOD’s costs and the timetable: “If you were just to rely on the airlift that the UK could reasonably call upon and you assumed everything else was benign, and we could move stuff from out bases to Camp Bastion with no obstruction, it would still take the best part of three complete years to draw all the equipment. Forget the people; the people would be extra. Three complete years to withdraw the equipment we have in Afghanistan.”
He pointed out that the permanent joint logistics HQ was recently very pleased that it had managed to ship back 120 containers in one six-month period. “The air bridge is working great at getting stuff out there. The problem is that the imperative is always to get stuff out there.” Getting it back is a different problem.
Tusa, who thinks a minimum figure of around £600 million is likely, pointed out that the far less complex operation to draw down from Kuwait, conducted in an entirely benevolent environment and with much of the equipment previously withdrawn, still cost £170 million. In that case there were fewer than 4,000 containers of equipment to be disposed of, compared to the 11,000-plus in Afghanistan – and only 500 vehicles compared to 3,500.
Tusa added that just refurbishing the vehicles that are brought back, in order to make them fit for service, will cost close to £2 billion. At present there is no budget for this level of expenditure.

Wednesday 10 April 2013

How Raymond Davis gummed up the works

The New York Times is serialising chunks of Mark Mazetti's new book, The Way of the Knife: the CIA, a Secret Army and a War at the Ends of the Earth (please excuse the gratuitous caps), about CIA operations in Pakistan. The latest installment, on the Raymond Davis case, makes excellent reading and purports to explain the major fall-out between the US and Pakistan following the arrest of the CIA contractor on a double murder charge in Lahore in January 2011.

Thursday 4 April 2013

Car rally in FATA runs out of gas

Whatever happened to that car rally planned for FATA by the Pakistan Army? No takers?

Drilling down into Lashkar-e-Taiba

Fighters from Pakistan’s Lashkar-e-Taiba – responsible for the Mumbai attacks in 2008 and many other terrorist atrocities, are only 17 years old on average when they are recruited and around 21 when they died, according to a detailed study of 900 militants from the group who died while members of the organisation, published by the Combatting Terrorism Center.
Using information collected from obituaries published in four Urdu-language newspapers, the authors have put together a comprehensive portrait of young militants in the organisation, which complements Stephen Tankel’s Storming the World Stage: The Story of Lashkar-e-Taiba (New York, Columbia University Press, 2011).
 Families are generally very supportive of members who join the organisation, most of whom have a higher level of education than the average Pakistani male. Most had only spent an average of three years at a madrassa and few had a high level of formal religious education.
Most are recruited from the Punjab region of Pakistan, including the regions around Gujranwala, Faisalabad, Lahore, Sheikhupura, Sialkot and Bahawalpur. They were recruited by current members, family members, mosques, hearing LET speeches or friends, in that order. Training took place mainly in Muzaffarabad in Kashmir or in Afghanistan. Most of those who died were killed in Kashmir, although numbers have dropped off as the organisation has spread out to work in different areas.

Stinging rebuke on Pakistan aid programme

The UK Parliament’s International Development Committee has delivered a stinging blow to the Department for International Development over its aid policy to Pakistan. A report published this week by the committee recognises the importance of the UK’s bilateral aid to Pakistan, but notes that in the past British aid money has “not been spent effectively” in Pakistan.
It says that such aid spending cannot continue unless there is “clear evidence that the newly elected Pakistan Government is also willing to make the necessary changes so as to contribute more to improving the livelihood of its people”.
At present only 0.57 per cent of Pakistanis – around 768,000 people – pay income tax. The rich pay nothing, nor do more than 70 per cent of elected politicians. No-one has been prosecuted for income tax evasion during the last 25 years. 
The committee says that DFID should only increase official development assistance to the planned £464 million per annum “if there is evidence that the newly elected Pakistan administration will increase tax revenues in general and income tax, in particular, and if it subsequently succeeds in increasing the amount of tax taken.”
It adds: “If the Pakistan Government is unwilling to take action to increase its revenues and improve services for its people, it cannot expect the British people to do so in the long run. We cannot expect the citizens of the UK to pay taxes to improve education and health in Pakistan if the Pakistan elite is not paying income tax.”
The committee also recommends that Britain and other donors encourage the Pakistan government to strengthen the powers and independence of the country’s National Accountability Bureau in an effort to reduce corruption in the country.