Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles are unloaded in 2009 from the MV Marilyn Vessel in the port of Antwerp, Belgium. (Pierre-Etienne Courtejoie/Army)
The U.S. military has more Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles in Afghanistan that it can bring home — and Afghanistan, India and Pakistan are locked in a three-way competition for them, a former senior defense official said.
“Those people in U.S. government who want to support the Pakistani counterinsurgency say we should give [MRAPs] to them; the people who are concerned about the future of Afghanistan, the people who are principally concerned about India say we shouldn’t give [MRAPs] to them,” said David Sedney. “What we’re actually going to do is not clear.”
MRAPs initially were fielded in Iraq to protect troops from roadside bombs after insurgents discovered that the undersides of up-armored Humvees were vulnerable to buried explosives.
Then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates made building the MRAPs and getting the vehicles downrange a top priority, even though he understood the vehicles were designed for use in Iraq and Afghanistan, not necessarily in future conflicts, said Sedney, who served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia from 2009 to 2013.
Now the U.S. military has thousands of MRAPs in Afghanistan that neither the Army nor Marine Corps want, Sedney said. Since the U.S. government has considered MRAPs too sophisticated for the Afghan military to use, it has been shipping some vehicles back to the U.S. while destroying others that have battle damage, Sedney told Military Times on Tuesday.
But some members of Congress have objected to destroying the costly vehicles, he said. Meanwhile, the companies that build MRAPs — and the lawmakers that represent states where the vehicles are built — want to encourage other countries to use MRAPs because building spare parts for the vehicles is a “lucrative business.”
Pakistan has said it wants a lot of MRAPs and some U.S. government officials think the vehicles could help the Paksitanis fight their own insurgents, Sedney said.
“As soon as the Indians even got hint of this, they became upset because they said, ‘Hey look, these MRAPs, they’re of limited utility in the worst areas of Pakistan but they could be really useful in an offensive action [by Pakistan] against India,’” Sedney said. “The Indian government started lobbying against MRAPs to Pakistan.”
Afghan officials also were concerned that the Pakistanis could use MRAPs against them, and Afghan military leaders felt many of their troops who were killed by roadside bombs in 2013 could have survived if they had been in MRAPs, he said.
“The Afghans realized that and they said, ‘Wait a second ... you’re saying that we have to absorb much higher casualties than you ever were willing to? Why don’t you give us the MRAPS?’ But of course, they didn’t have the money.”
Last week, U.S. Forces Afghanistan issued a statement that it has no plans to provide Pakistan with excess MRAPs used in Afghanistan. The U.S. Embassy in Pakistan then issued a statement on Monday saying the U.S. government is considering Pakistan’s request for excess military equipment.
That prompted the State Department to release a statement on Monday clarifying that while the U.S. government is considering giving military equipment to Pakistan, none of it would come directly from Afghanistan.
“To be clear, the United States has not refused Pakistan’s request regarding EDA [excess defense articles] sourced from the worldwide pool (to include any request that might involve MRAPs),” according to the statement. “The United States continues to assist Pakistan through many security cooperation programs to build partnership capacity, including through the provision of worldwide available EDA.
“U.S. military equipment leaving overland from Afghanistan through Pakistan or via the Northern Distribution Network is part of the overall process of removing equipment as our forces draw down in Afghanistan. We have not and do not intend to transfer this equipment to the governments neighboring Afghanistan.”