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In Afghanistan, A Surplus of Armored Vehicles

  • Maeva Bambuck

As foreign combat troops prepare to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014, thousands of soldiers, aid workers and diplomats are shutting down local operations. In Kabul, some Afghan businesses are already feeling the pinch. Armored car dealers say their customers are leaving town, and leaving behind their expensive vehicles.

Nicole Stroop is with IATS, a company in Kabul that fixes armored vehicles. Several years ago this business barely existed in Afghanistan. But the presence of thousands of troops and foreign workers has made cars that can resist land mines and gunshots a necessity.

"A lot of broken side windscreens, a lot of broken side windows, due to anything from bullets to rocks thrown at the vehicle," Stroop said.

Her clients are security contractors, diplomats and even aid groups who rushed into Afghanistan at the start of the war. But foreign forces are now leaving, along with her customers.

"Their contracts are simply ending,” sahe said. “So we've lost a couple of clients through that but it's just the nature of the business."

As foreigners leave, they are selling off their expensive vehicles, bringing prices down said auto dealer Said Bashir with the BM Group, a logistics, supplies and construction firm based in Kabul.

“It used to be around $180,000 now it's around $130-$140… the new one," he said.

The Afghan dealer says the market is now flooded. There are few Afghans with the cash to buy armored cars, and even fewer with the right paperwork.

"Italians, the Italian military they used to lease it and now they are leaving, they are terminating their leases and businessmen are trying to rent it to foreigners," said Bashir.

Part of the problem is finding authorized customers. While these businesses once operated in a lawless land, they must now only sell to buyers with the proper paperwork. Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Siddiqi said the police have been cracking down on offenders.

"We found out that some people are not registering the vehicles with the government,” he said. “So that's the problem. They must pay taxes and have the proper license to use those vehicles in cities and provinces.”

Such regulations and uncertainty about whether foreign troops will remain in Afghanistan after 2014 create problems for many local businesses, says Chevrolet salesman Yama Yousufi.

“If they go from Afghanistan it will be a negative point about business in Afghanistan. Not just business but everything in Afghanistan,” he said.

Yousufi says customers are holding off on new purchases until they know whether President Hamid Karzai will sign the deal to allow foreign troops to operate in the country after next year.