If the U.S. military held a yard sale, the rummaging would look a lot like what has been going on in Iraq.
Troops are leaving a bounty of leftovers as they exit the country this month, abandoning dining-hall tables and chairs, tents, air conditioners and old vehicles.
Unlike a traditional American yard sale, the military bric-a-brac is free. The stuff likely would be dumped back home.
For an Iraqi force moving into once-bustling U.S. bases, the accouterments are just the thing to make the soldier’s life a little more comfortable as he takes on the full load of fighting insurgents against the government.
The State Department, which inherits the lead U.S. role in Iraq on Jan. 1, also is accepting hand-me-downs, such as armored vehicles and surveillance electronics to protect its turf.
“We’ve gone through a very extensive review process to determine what we need to take back to the United States, what gets reconditioned, what we can afford to transfer to the State Department, or to state and local governments back in the United States, or to the Iraqi government,” said Army Maj. Gen. Jeffrey S. Buchanan, the top U.S. military spokesman in Iraq.
“It’s really the leftover things we’ve transferred to the Iraq government.”
The command estimates that it has bequeathed to the Iraqi government more than 4 million pieces of this and that, valued at $580 million. However, the military is saving more than $1 billion in shipping costs.
Here is some of what Iraq is getting when it assumes control of all U.S. bases:
• Containerized housing units, air conditioners and gym equipment.
• Generators, water and fuel tanks, cars and stoves.
• Tables, washers and dryers, portable chemical toilets; and large, portable concrete walls and barriers.
“They take a crane and move around on flatbeds as they need it,” Gen. Buchanan said. “It’s certainly not worth the cost to us to to get all these pieces of concrete anywhere back to the U.S.”
With the sprawling Camp Victory complex that surrounds the country’s international airport, the Iraqis also are receiving prison cells, including the ones that held Saddam Hussein.
Iraq also gets a waste-treatment facility near Tikrit that takes care of contaminated earth and fuel oil.
The U.S. military is keeping its frontline weapons systems. Tanks, armored fighting vehicles, spy and strike drones, jet fighters and artillery pieces are going to the United States or to U.S. bases in Europe or Afghanistan.
“Starting with the question of what we need: Obviously, if this is a current piece of military gear — something like vehicles, tanks, artillery pieces, weapons, etc. — that all goes back with our forces,” Gen. Buchanan said.
Iraq is buying some of these sophisticated weapons through the Foreign Military Sales program that arms other allies, such as Israel and Egypt.
Iraq is buying 140 of the front-line M1 Abrams tanks. It also is acquiring as many as three dozen F-16 Fighting Falcon jet fighters.
The United States has given Iraq rifles, pistols and Humvee multipurpose vehicles.
Iraq did not get a “yes” for everything on its wish list. Because of federal transfer regulations, the U.S. military rejected requests for certain sophisticated surveillance electronics that operate out of aerostat balloons and scan large areas.
The State Department, whose diplomats will turn to private security officers for protection as they move around a dangerous landscape, is taking possession of 60 MRAP (mine-resistant ambush-protected) vehicles.
One of Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates’ first moves in 2007 was to prod the Army and Marine Corps to produce more MRAPs and get them to troops being attacked by improvised explosive devices.
State also received armored Chevrolet Suburbans, as well as surveillance equipment to watch a compound perimeter or detect incoming rockets. U.S. diplomats will work chiefly from the embassy in Baghdad and two consulates.
The U.S. gives away items through the Foreign Excess Personal Property Program. It came up with a list of potential hand-me-downs and negotiated the transfer with the Iraqi government, which had a shopping list.
“All of that stuff went through a process to determine, did we really need it back in the United States?” Gen. Buchanan said.
The answer was “no” for 4 million items.