TEL AVIV, Israel, Aug. 26 (UPI) — Israel’s Defense Ministry is negotiating with the Pentagon to buy U.S. military equipment in Iraq that’s due to be shelved as surplus or sold as the last contingent of U.S. forces prepared to withdraw.
The Jerusalem Post reported that the Israeli military “is looking to renew its aging fleet of Humvee combat vehicles with ones that the United States will be phasing out as it reduces its troops numbers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Israel is also interested in acquiring surplus weapons and ammunition the U.S. will no longer require following the withdrawal.”
But it’s likely that other regional states, such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, both major buyers of U.S. weapons and equipment, could seek to get their hands on U.S. equipment.
With the U.S. Defense Department facing hefty funding reductions under U.S. President Barack Obama’s budgetary cutbacks, the Pentagon may decide it makes more sense to auction off some equipment than go the expense of shipping it stateside.
The Israeli plan seems to be that if the U.S. military does sell or auction off Humvees and other equipment at bargain prices the surplus gear can be trucked west across the desert through Jordan, the Jewish state’s eastern neighbor with which it has a peace treaty, to Israel.
It’s not clear whether the Israelis expect to pay cash for whatever U.S. gear they can acquire in Iraq, or whether this would fall under the $3 billion a year in military aid the Jewish state receives from the United States.
Iraq’s emergent armed forces and security services are likely to be given some of the U.S. equipment or allowed to buy it at discount prices.
The United States began withdrawing its forces from Iraq after signing a Status of Forces Agreement with the Baghdad government in December 2008.
The pullout began in June 2009 and is scheduled to be completed by Dec. 31.
It involves the U.S. military’s largest logistics operation since quitting Vietnam 40 years ago — 1 million tons of arms and equipment that includes 43,000 vehicles, 600-plus helicopters, 120,000 containers and 34,000 tons of ammunition and ordnance.
The Americans are abandoning some 300 bases and other infrastructure, which the Iraqis are in the process of taking over.
These range from forward operating bases to sprawling 6,000-acre air bases like Balad, north of Baghdad, which resembles a small American city with movie theaters, fast-food outlets, massage parlors, an ice-making plant and a sewage treatment center.
Some equipment has been shipped east to Afghanistan or pre-positioned in bases in the Persian Gulf for future operations in the region. One of the biggest such bases is in Kuwait, Iraq’s southern neighbor.
Other materiel will be returned to the United States to be refurbished and put back in service.
On Aug. 5, the U.S. military said nearly 60 percent of the equipment has been moved out of Iraq under the colossal withdrawal operation, with the remainder on track for disposal.
To date, 1.7 million pieces of military gear, from 67-ton M1A2 Abrams tanks to coffee makers, have been shipped out, says Air Force Maj. John Rozsnyai, who heads the U.S. Transport Command’s joint planning team for the withdrawal.
That leaves 1 million items to go but Rozsnyai said it’s not yet been determined whether all these will be shipped out, given to the Iraqis or sold off.
The equipment left in Iraq is worth billions of dollars. The Iraqis were hoping that their U.S.-trained and armed military would inherit much of the U.S. equipment.
The U.S. Congress, many of whose members want the Iraqi government to pay for much of the U.S. military operation since 2003, has limited the total value of equipment, such as computers and furniture, that can be left to around $15 million per base.
But commanders have argued that it’s more economical to simply turn over equipment to Iraq because of the cost of shipping it back to the United States is prohibitive.