Logistics of Obama's retreat from Afghanistan overwhelming
NATO formally ended combat operations at the end of 2014, but the U.S. military couldn't just...leave. No, pulling out of Afghanistan was a massive operation in itself, one that took three years of planning and cost an estimated $28 billion—just to get out.This is another reason why retreating before a war is over is a real problem that makes it all the more difficult to have to reengage if the threat reemerges.
Over at Fast Company, E.B. Boyd has written searing account about the logistics of leaving Afghanistan, putting the scale of the war in stark perspective.
After 13 years, the U.S. military had 62,000 shipping containers worth of gear spread out over 500 bases across the country. Just packing up everything would have been hard, but this was still an active combat zone, where IEDs still lurked and enemy fighters still attack. The equipment we didn't take we couldn't just abandon. Consider the MRAPs ("mine-resistant, ambush protected" trucks), many of which had to be dismantled by hand.In yards elsewhere, the doomed MRAPs were torn down further. Workers pulled off their thick, blastproof windows. They removed the seats. They ripped out the classified armor. The bare shells were handed off to workers at a third yard, who methodically cut them up into scrap using plasma cutters in a process so secret that workers were told never to use the same pattern twice and photographs weren't allowed. (They didn't want enemies to learn where the weak parts were.)Entire military bases also had to be renovated for new tenants—be it the Afghan army or police other government agency—lest they fall into Taliban hands and become "state-of-the-art fortresses" for the enemy.
This was also complicated by the fact that the military had done a crummy job of keeping track of what it brought to Afghanistan. Take the most basic of items, the shipping container. The military had to create an entire team dedicated to tracking down lost containers.