Marines are not planning a repeat showing of the rusting carcasses of Russian military equipment that litter the ground in Afghanistan following its unsuccessful campaign in the 1980s.
The top Marine general said Wednesday that every single piece of corps equipment will leave Afghanistan with the troops, or will purposefully be given to another country. The Marines have so far withdrawn between 65 and 70 percent of its equipment.
The Marine Corps needs that equipment back, says Commandant Gen. James Amos, particularly under the current budget squeeze.
"We've got to get it out, because that stuff has to go to the depot," he said Wednesday. "Under sequestration, I need to reset it so we can use it."
Continuing these across-the-board cuts could account for a troop reduction in as many as 8,000 Marines, he says.
"I'm not planning on leaving anything. Anything that gets left in that country that has 'USMC' on the side will be purposefully left by [Marine] Gen. [Joseph] Dunford, or [Army] Gen. [Lloyd] Austin," he said of the commanders of ISAF and CENTCOM, respectively.
These generals have the authority to give some of this equipment to another country, Amos said. "Short of that, I'm not leaving a single thing."
The military learned from Iraq, where equipment inventory was not a top priority. As Amos says, "we had equipment all over the place."
Marines sent a specific task force to Iraq for the final 13 months of Operation Iraqi Freedom, which ended in 2011, to organize, repair and move equipment from Iraq into neighboring Kuwait. From there, as much as 60 percent of it went to Afghanistan to support the troop surge that began in 2010.
For the past year and a half, a similar task force has been studying the equipment in Afghanistan. The sprawling Camp Leatherneck in notoriously violent Hellmand Province has served as a waypoint for equipment coming out of the southern routes in Afghanistan, Amos says. The Marines have not imported any equipment during that time.
The U.S. military employs Russian An-225 Mriyas – the largest cargo plane in the world – as well as U.S. C-17s to fly the equipment out of Afghanistan. Marines use the return flights for those planes to bring out this equipment, such as MRAPs, that would be too heavy for other aircraft.