Securing the Future of Afghanistan - Defence Committee Contents


Current plans for the return or disposal of equipment from Afghanistan
Current plans1
Policy on what equipment will be returned, disposed of or gifted to the ANSF Within the overall policy umbrella decisions on what to do with equipment will be made on a case-by-case basis using the principles of operational priority and value for money to the UK taxpayer. We are reviewing our policies on gifting to ensure that any gifted equipment is appropriate and follows Parliamentary, Treasury and National Audit Office rules. We are conscious that uncoordinated gifting could put ANSF sustainability at risk. The underlying requirement of any gifting must be that all gifted equipment is sustainable in terms of cost of ownership, support and enduring training. Our approach on gifting will, therefore, be coordinated with that of NATO and ISAF.
Quantity to be returned Operational analysis is ongoing to enable full understanding of both the scale of redeployment and the flow of materiel and equipment out of Theatre. The initial estimate of the total quantity of UK in-theatre equipment was 11,000 twenty foot equivalent units; (this includes approximately 3,000 vehicles). This figure is being constantly refined as planning progresses.

Considerable analysis to determine exactly how much materiel and equipment needs to move is also underway. A figure of approximately 6,5002 twenty foot equivalent units of materiel is currently being used for movements planning after the consumption, selling, scrapping and gifting of materiel in theatre. Further analysis is being conducted on the range of options under consideration but planning is ongoing. Greater fidelity will be achieved on completion of the Force Element Table3 (FET) during Herrick 17.

Gifting of equipment to ANSF General Capewell: [...] If we leave anything behind, it will be equipment that will not cause the Afghans more of a problem than the one that they have already. We would want not to put stress on their technical capacity to maintain this equipment. As you have heard, we are making efforts to improve that side of the Afghan security apparatus, but I am clear in my own mind that that is not going to be a huge amount of equipment.

Dame Mariot Leslie: That is the logic behind the NATO training mission in Afghanistan setting out a kind of specification for the kinds of things that would be good to leave behind for the Afghans and the kinds of things that would not. It will still be a national decision, but NATO is giving guidance to nations.[152]

Disposal of equipment Philip Hammond: We have our very own eBay, the Defence Disposals Agency, which disposes of military equipment to achieve the best possible value for the taxpayer when it is surplus to requirements. We will look at all the options for equipment that is not required in core. Is it useful to the Afghans? Is it sustainable by the Afghans? Can we afford to gift it to the Afghans? Is there a sale route for it? Is it something that we can sensibly attempt to sell? We will make a case-by-case judgment.[153]
Routes to be taken out of Afghanistan Where there are no time pressures, low grade materiel, equipment and supplies will be recovered by surface means in shipping containers. However, redeployment by air forms a significant part of the UK redeployment plan particularly for Protected Mobility vehicles, sensitive materiel and outsized loads.

General Barrons: [...] By road, you could go south through Pakistan. As you know, those routes have been closed for a while, but we are quite close to resetting that agreement and we are reasonably confident—although this is not quite yet in the bag—that by December, maybe January, we will have reverse flow through Pakistan to Karachi. That is the cheapest, most efficient and most attractive way of moving our stuff out. As you know, it is moved not by us, but by civilian contractors. But we need alternatives.

The next alternative is to have a number of routes that would go from the north of Afghanistan through the "stans" and through Russia. We can construct agreements to do that bilaterally, but it is better that we do it on a NATO basis. Those agreements are in place, or are coming into place. They are generally more expensive, they take a bit longer to get our stuff home and they need to be accompanied by similar arrangements over the air lines of communication. Right now, we can fly matériel from the south, and at the minute we can bring matériel in, but not exit it, through the north, so that is a next step in the agreements that we will work through.

There is a third route that will allow us to fly things from Bastion to somewhere in the Middle East, where we can then try to ship it. The final way, which is a little bit more expensive, but only a little bit, is flying your matériel from Bastion directly back to the UK in a mixture of Air Force and commercial transport. Quite soon, we will be moving in the order of 1,000 metric tonnes a month by air. The things that really matter to us, not least the key vehicles that the Army needs for its future equipment programme, will come back to us by air, pretty much.[154]

General Capewell said that they were working on ports of entry to the UK including airports such as Brize Norton and ports and he was confident that the "UK strategic base is appropriately configured to receive the mass of that redeployment".[155]

Since we held our last evidence session, the Government has signed bilateral agreements with Uzbekistan on the transit of non-warlike stores and armoured vehicles by rail and equipment and personnel by air.[156]

Timetable Routine clearance has already started in Theatre to prepare for redeployment which, based on planning, will begin in earnest from 1 October 2012.

General Capewell: We have been planning for a long time. The major redeployment effort started on 1 October, because of course in transition you do not get any redeployment dividend until certain aspects of transition are complete. That process will now continue. It will build speed, and its speed is directly related to the progress we make on the ground in transition terms, and the bandwidth, the apertures, that we need to use to get this equipment out. So there is quite a lot of physics in this, and we are making a big effort to apply science to this redeployment.[157]

Security General Barrons: For us, this is only about Camp Bastion, because the materiel that leaves Bastion by road is on a contractor's truck, accompanied by the security that the contractor provides. There is no risk to UK personnel on the movement of stuff that we send by road. If you only send by road the stuff that you care less about and it does not make it, it will be expensive and the National Audit Office will be cross and you will be cross, but it is not the end of the world. The stuff that matters, not least all our warm bodies, we will fly out. That is it. There is not much peril attached with the extraction of stuff. The greatest peril is the sheer volume of ISAF materiel, of the order of 100,000 20-foot container equivalents, which needs to get down the same routes in much the same time frame. That is where NATO will have to exercise some regulation. [158]
Costs of withdrawal The approximate costs of the redeployment of surface containers range from £5,000 to £12,000 per container equivalent. The Air Line of Communication costs range between £10,000 and £30,000 per container equivalent, either returning directly to the UK by air or by one of the fly/rail/sail options. The detailed costs will vary depending on the specific option used.

General Capewell: You have already got written evidence that suggests that we have got permission to surge up to 500 people into theatre to allow this to take place. I will give you a little bit more detail on that. It will not necessarily be 500 people; it could be as low as 20 people. It depends what the specific requirement is. For instance, if you have a certain fleet of vehicles that need preparing for redeployment, that requires a certain set of specialists. So this is bespokely designed, it is focused on the immediate problem and it is episodic, in the sense that we surge people in and out to deal with these technical challenges as they come along.[159]

Co-ordination with NATO Cross-ISAF coordination will be an important factor in ensuring successful redeployment. To this end, strategic liaison with NATO continues through Joint Forces Command Brunssum4 and SHAPE5 working groups which are attended by MOD representatives. The SHAPE Air Movements Control Cell collates all multi-national reporting of each country's Detailed Deployment Plans (DDP) to provide the ISAF fusion cell with oversight of country redeployment plans and flow rates. DDPs are typically submitted quarterly with the next submission scheduled for mid-November. Coordination of the ISAF nations' DDPs will ensure better use of resources, de-confliction and where possible shared use of assets for ISAF redeployment.

Dame Mariot Leslie: [...]Some of the building blocks are in place already. The NATO training mission in Afghanistan, for instance, has a document that sets out principles for what the Afghan forces might need, if countries were minded to gift to them and leave things behind, and what they do not need, and so on.

A lot more work needs to be done in NATO, particularly in the military structures, and the United Kingdom has been very active in encouraging NATO to get on with it and co-ordinate. [...] there should be a report to the next Ministers' meeting in February, so that Ministers collectively across the whole of ISAF can get a grip on how NATO is tackling this. National plans—our own are relatively mature—need to be fitted in with the NATO ones if the whole of the theatre is to be emptied by 2014 in good order, so we are very keen that NATO proceeds.[160]

Notes:   1. Information is taken from the MoD memorandum unless specified differently

  2. This figure is an estimate only and is liable to change as planning continues.

  3. The definitive document listing all capabilities and equipment that are to be moved.

  4. One of NATO's three operational Headquarters, Brunssum in the Netherlands, serves as the higher Headquarters for ISAF.

5. The Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers in Europe is the Headquarters of Allied Command Operations - one of NATO's two strategic military commands. SHAPE is located in Belgium

152   Q 225 Back

153   Q 388 Back

154   Q 294 Back

155   Qq 215-216  Back

156   Ev 131  Back

157   Q 213 Back

158   Q 295 Back

159   Q 220 Back

160   Q 217 Back

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© Parliamentary copyright 2013
Prepared 10 April 2013