Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

CentCom planners study massive move of equipment to Afghanistan

TAMPA — With President Barack Obama poised to ramp up troop levels in Afghanistan, U.S. Central Command planners are in the midst of the military's biggest logistical challenge since the Vietnam War.

How do you marshal billions of dollars in equipment to escalate one war in Afghanistan while scaling back another in Iraq?

"This is probably the most complicated logistical operation we've done in our lifetime," said Army Maj. Gen. Kenneth Dowd, director of logistics for CentCom, which is based at Tampa's MacDill Air Force Base.

In a wide-ranging interview with the St. Petersburg Times this week, Dowd said landlocked Afghanistan presents greater difficulties than Iraq with its fewer routes of supply.

CentCom is now conducting an assessment of air strips in Afghanistan, and Dowd said engineers will have to expand them in order to resupply larger numbers of troops by air.

"I'm a little concerned about" airfield capacity, Dowd said. "We've got to expand and make it better."

At the same time, Dowd said, engineers will have to spend considerable time removing mines in the rugged country dating to the Soviet invasion three decades ago.

All of that activity comes as his office determines the fate of 2.8 million pieces of equipment troops have brought to Iraq.

"It's really quite an art," Dowd said of this life-and-death logistical dance.

Obama is expected to announce next week an escalation of the U.S. effort in Afghanistan that will send as many as 30,000 additional troops on top of the 68,000 already there.

Much of the U.S. equipment in Iraq will never return to the states.

Often, it isn't cost-efficient to do so, planners say.

Much of it will be sold to Iraqi security forces, Dowd said. Other gear not sent to Afghanistan after refurbishment in Kuwait might be placed in storage somewhere in CentCom's area of responsibility, which includes 20 nations in the region.

This can be a daunting political challenge in the Middle East, where other nations will not want any U.S. presence in their territories.

Some look back at the U.S. experience in Vietnam as a cautionary tale for Iraq planners.

Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., told reporters earlier this year that he worried about too much gear being left behind, which he said happened in Vietnam.

When he visited Vietnam after the war, "I remember seeing rows and rows of U.S. equipment that we left behind. We must do a better job managing the redeployment from Iraq," he said in a statement in July.

Dowd said his planners have been working for more than a year on a smooth withdrawal from Iraq. He said he expects few major problems.

He said technology helps his office more efficiently move and track gear than ever before.

Dowd acknowledged that planners have to learn from mistakes made in Iraq, particularly in quickly building a military infrastructure providing for tens of thousands of troops.

He noted problems with poorly installed and maintained electrical wiring. Some troops were electrocuted.

"We jumped into some of these buildings over there," Dowd said. "We occupied them. … But you wouldn't want to live in that house because of the way the electrical wiring was done. We spend a lot of time making sure these locations are safe."

To Dowd, the folks working under him who make sure the flow of supplies doesn't stop are some of the unsung heroes of the wars.

"There are young American folks who make this happen," Dowd said. "They don't wear much rank on their lapels. But they're phenomenal."

William R. Levesque can be reached at levesque@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3432.

CentCom planners study massive move of equipment to Afghanistan 11/26/09 [Last modified: Friday, November 27, 2009 11:53am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Pinellas detectives investigating shooting that led to car crash

    Public Safety

    LARGO — Pinellas Sheriff's detectives are investigating a shooting that investigators said led to a man crashing his car after he was shot in the abdomen early Tuesday.

  2. Trump tweets, McCain return set stage for health bill vote (w/video)

    National

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump urged Republicans to "step up to the plate" for Tuesday's crucial Senate vote on their bill eviscerating much of the Obama health care law. The stage was set for high drama, with Sen. John McCain returning to the Capitol to cast his first vote since being diagnosed with brain …

    President Donald Trump, accompanied by Vice President Mike Pence, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, and others, speaks about healthcare, Monday, July 24, 2017, in the Blue Room of the White House in Washington. [Associated Press]
  3. Teenage driver livestreams crash that killed sister in California (w/video)

    Accidents

    FRESNO, Calif. — A teenage driver lost control of her car while she was livestreaming on Instagram and recorded part of the crash that authorities say killed her younger sister in California.

    This July 22, 2017 photo provided by the Merced County Sheriff, shows Obdulia Sanchez in Merced, Calif. Sanchez has been arrested in California on suspicion of causing a deadly crash that she recorded live on Instagram. She was booked into the Merced County Jail on suspicion of DUI and vehicular manslaughter after Friday's crash that killed her 14-year-old sister and badly injured another 14-year-old girl. [Merced County Sheriff via AP]
  4. Fiancee: Clearwater driver in truck trafficking case helped people

    Nation

    LOUISVILLE, Ky. — When a long-haul truck driver from Clearwater called his fiancee Sunday from a jail more than 1,000 miles from home, he had only a few minutes to describe the gruesome events that led to him being charged with a crime in which he could face the death penalty.

    James Mathew Bradley Jr., 60, of Clearwater, center, is escorted out of the federal courthouse following a hearing, Monday, July 24, 2017, in San Antonio. Bradley was arrested in connection with the deaths of multiple people packed into a broiling tractor-trailer. [Associated Press]
  5. Citizens fill a Pinellas County School Board meeting in 2016.