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Most Army and Air Force Exchange Service concessions serving U.S. troops in Afghanistan will be closed within 90 days under an order issued Feb. 5 by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in that war zone.
McChrystal's "fragmentary order," known as a FRAGO, follows a review of morale, welfare and recreation activities in Afghanistan during which base and unit commanders completed a 60-day assessment and submitted impact statements and recommendations for closure or relocation of AAFES facilities.
"MWR programs across the theater should be limited in scope and tailored for an expeditionary force," McChrystal said in his order. "MWR should never be the distracter that changes the focus of the mission."
More than 50 AAFES concessions would close under the order, including popular fast-food outlets like Burger King, Popeyes and Taco Bell, as well as jewelry stores, souvenir stores and new car sales outlets.
At least nine main exchange service stores that operate under the auspices of specific deployed U.S. units will remain open. The fate of 14 other main facilities that are not categorized as "unit stores" is unclear.
"We've received the order and will follow accordingly. We're there to do what the command wants us to do," said AAFES spokesman Judd Anstey.
According to McChrystal's order, priority command support will be limited to fitness centers, MWR Internet services, the Stars and Stripes newspaper, unit-operated AAFES stores, barber and beauty shops, recreation equipment (books, movies, board games and outdoor recreation gear), USO packages (USO2Go and USO in a Box), and education services, all of which will continue.
Other facilities exempt from the closure orders include Green Bean Café; AAFES-sponsored vendors run by Afghan nationals; temporary bazaars (open at least one day a week); AT&T Call Centers; AAFES Internet services, cell phone activation services; and tailor concessions that do limited alterations.
The 90-day timetable outlined by McChrystal will include 30 days for the command to notify the facilities to be closed, and 60 days for the actual closure process.
In addition to its nine unit-run and 14 other main exchange facilities in Afghanistan, AAFES currently operates 27 food outlets, 51 short-term concessions and 77 longer-term concession services in that country, Anstey said.