The World’s Biggest Garage Sale

The armored trucks, televisions, ice cream scoops and nearly everything else shipped here for America’s war against the Taliban are now part of the world’s biggest garage sale. Every week, as the U.S. troop drawdown accelerates, the United States is selling 12 million to 14 million pounds of its equipment on the Afghan market.

"With U.S. Withdrawal from Afghanistan, American Military Gear Sold as Scrap," Washington Post, Oct. 20, 2013

Shipping containers are the atomic unit of construction, if you can call it that, for the U.S. military in Afghanistan. They’re repurposed for everything. Sometimes for storage. Sometimes for housing. In this case, they’re being used for lavatories and showers.

Shipping containers are the atomic unit of construction, if you can call it that, for the U.S. military in Afghanistan. They’re repurposed for everything. Sometimes for storage. Sometimes for housing. In this case, they’re being used for lavatories and showers.

Being a Northern Californian, I thought these were stickers for San Francisco and California until I saw the EOD sticker  (explosive ordnance disposal). Then I realized “SF” meant “Special Forces” and “CA” meant “Civil Affairs” -- and that these were on the backside of a recruiting sign… 

Being a Northern Californian, I thought these were stickers for San Francisco and California until I saw the EOD sticker  (explosive ordnance disposal). Then I realized “SF” meant “Special Forces” and “CA” meant “Civil Affairs” -- and that these were on the backside of a recruiting sign… 

Divestiture: Afghanistan

As in Iraq, the U.S. plans on divesting of about a quarter (in value) of the material we have in Afghanistan, rather than ship it home. The difference between Iraq and Afghanistan, though, is that Afghanistan doesn’t have the same ability and desire to absorb our excess gear that Iraq did. This is because Afghanistan is so much farther behind Iraq—it doesn’t have the infrastructure or the skills to maintain a lot of the equipment we’d like to get rid of.

— Source: Army Sustainment

Divestiture: Iraq

In Iraq, the U.S. divested of about a quarter of its gear (by value), rather than ship it home. Divesture essentially means to get rid of, either by transferring the gear to Iraq or by destroying it. 

By the end, the U.S. had divested of more than 4.2 million pieces of equipment—about 12,000 shipping containers’ worth. The move saved the U.S. more than $1.7 billion in transportation costs.

Army Sustainment

At the beginning of 2013, the U.S. military had about 100,000 containers in Afghanistan. That’s 100,000 containers to get out of the country—or to sell to the Afghans for scrap. Problem was, record-keeping for the containers over the last 12 years has been spotty. So now the U.S. military has dispatched teams to bases around the country to try to figure out where those containers are and whether they’re in good enough shape to ship home.

At the beginning of 2013, the U.S. military had about 100,000 containers in Afghanistan. That’s 100,000 containers to get out of the country—or to sell to the Afghans for scrap. Problem was, record-keeping for the containers over the last 12 years has been spotty. So now the U.S. military has dispatched teams to bases around the country to try to figure out where those containers are and whether they’re in good enough shape to ship home.