The Army’s top logistician told members of the House Armed Services Committee Oct. 2 he remains “cautiously optimistic” that the Army will complete its withdrawal from Afghanistan.
“Right now we are on the glide slope we had planned, but that can change overnight. One incident at a border could cause us challenges,” said Lt. Gen. Raymond. V. Mason, deputy chief of staff, Army G4.
The Army continues to bring Soldiers and equipment home while finishing operations and training Afghan forces with the goal of all non-enduring equipment returning by October 2014.
“The closure of bases, then the retrograde that follows, is based on what commander on the ground is doing as he works through the BSA (bilateral security agreement),” Mason said.
The Army plans on bringing back $17 billion worth of equipment currently in Afghanistan, but assumes generally stable conditions, Mason said. Critical to the success of meeting the 2014 deadline is the Pakistan ground lines of communication, which is referred to as the PAKGLOC by military commanders, and to a lesser extent the northern distribution network, or NDN. Both of these land routes are less expensive then multi-modal and direct air transportation.
“Unfortunately the PAKGLOC and the NDN are not always viable and open,” Mason said. “Additionally other variables, including increased enemy activity or potential delays in Afghan elections, would most certainly effect our retrograde and drawdown plans.”
Currently, 50 percent of the Army’s equipment leaves Afghanistan through the PAKGLOC, and that is where Mason would like the majority of equipment to flow through.
The multi-modal route requires equipment to be flown from Afghanistan to a port and loaded onto a ship. Shipping equipment by sea cuts costs significantly compared to flying it home, Mason said.
In some cases, equipment is flown to the United States from Afghanistan, but is limited to critical items, such as communication equipment and weapons.
The fluctuating price of fuel is a concern for Mason and an exact cost for retrograde is hard to nail down. Mason said the Army has budgeted $2 to $3 billion to get equipment home, but fuel is a huge variable.
“If fuel costs continue to go up, we are going to push into the $3 billion range,” Mason said. “If the PAKGLOC was to close, we could in fact go above the $3 billion range, because we would have to fly more out.”