While the US Army has announced it is deploying the 498th Engineering Battalion to Afghanistan to assist in the dismantling of scores of US bases still spread out among the mountains and deserts of that country, an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) spokesman has confirmed that NATO troops have already vacated more than 700 bases in preparation for the final withdrawal in 2014.
ISAF spokesman Gen. Heinz Feldmann provided the numbers in an interview with Pajhwok Afghan News, part of which was published online on Aug. 20.
“During its presence in Afghanistan, ISAF once had over 800 small and big military bases” Feldmann said. “But the number has now fallen to less than 100. We are jointly working with the Afghan finance ministry to decide which bases should be handed over to Afghan forces.”
There are still over 60,000 US troops serving in Afghanistan, but they’re also going to start heading for the exits in large numbers. By February, plans call for a force of about 34,000 troops remain in country. Final numbers have yet to be announced, but it is generally expected for several thousand US personnel to remain behind to continue training Afghan forces after the official NATO withdrawal date of December 2014.
Along with those troops there is still about $30 billion of US government equipment on the ground in Afghanistan, all of which will have to be moved out, handed over to the Afghan government, or destroyed in place by the end of next year. The Army has said that it plans on bringing home about $22 billion of the $28 billion worth of its gear by the end of 2014. Most significantly, about 9,000 of the 11,000 MRAPs the military has in Afghanistan will be sent home, with the remaining 2,000 destroyed in place.
Military officials have said that about 1,000 pieces of rolling stock and more than 2,000 cargo containers are leaving Afghanistan per month, either by air or through ground routes across Pakistan or north through the Northern Distribution Network—though only about 4 percent of equipment is currently heading that way.