The United States is considering donating some of its 1200 mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles known as MRAPs in Afghanistan to neighboring Pakistan after considering the high cost of transporting the vehicles out of the country when the NATO-led combat mission in Afghanistan formally comes to an end in December. However, the proposal has drawn strong opposition from authorities in Kabul, who say all of the equipment should remain in their country.
The excess equipment, worth billion of dollars, includes the heavily armored MRAPs that American military commanders believe will have limited strategic value after serving in the Afghan mission for over a decade.
The American commander of international forces in Afghanistan, General Josef Dunford, disclosed details of the proposed plans last week while testifying before U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee.
“It costs us little less than $10,000 to destroy an MRAP, it costs us somewhere between $50,000 and $100,000 to actually move that MRAP," he said. "If we wanted to give it to another country that country would have to accept the MRAPs as is where is. In other words they would have to pay for anything to get that vehicle serviceable again and also to move that vehicle to their country. We are looking at alternatives to provide these vehicles to partners to include Afghanistan, Pakistan and other partners that have participated in operations with us right now.”
Pakistani defense officials declined to discuss details of their talks with U.S. officials on the subject but say they would like to receive the MRAPs to better protect troops fighting domestic Taliban insurgents.
Outrage in Afghanistan
However, the U.S. proposed plans have outraged leaders and lawmakers in Afghanistan. They have accused Washington of violating its strategic partnership agreement with Kabul by offering the military equipment to Islamabad without consulting with the Afghan government.
Presidential spokesman Aimal Faizi says his country will strongly oppose any move to deliver the military hardware to Pakistan. He says Kabul was expecting coalition forces to leave it for the Afghan security forces.
Afghan media and some lawmakers have gone on to demand the U.S. immediately suspend any such talks with Pakistan, accusing Islamabad of sponsoring terrorism in their country.
Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Tasnim Aslam, says Afghan criticism is uncalled for, because of the steep sacrifices that Pakistan has made in fighting terrorism.
“Over 40,000 of our nationals including members of the security forces have rendered ultimate sacrifice in the fight against terrorism," she noted. "Any attempt to depict Pakistan as other than a victim of terrorism is a travesty and we completely reject it. It is disconcerting that such injurious statements are being made at a time when sincere efforts are under way to turn a new page in the bilateral relations with Afghanistan.”
The chairman of the Afghan Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, Arifullah Pashtun, says that the proposed U.S. plans have upset people in Afghanistan and he has conveyed these concerns to commanders of international forces. He tells VOA that American military officials assured him that while discussions are under way no final decision has been made to give the military equipment to Pakistan.
The Afghan senator says his country wants the equipment. He acknowledges that the International Security Assistance Force can transfer the military gear to any other country, including Pakistan, but says Afghanistan's needs should be addressed first.