US pushing to complete largest movement of military material from Iraq to Afghanistan

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Washington, Apr.3 (ANI): The United States is pushing to complete the largest movement of military materiel since World War II from Iraq to Afghanistan, and it involves shifting nearly three million pieces of equipment.

The operation, dubbed Nickel II after the code name for Gen. George S. Patton's celebrated repositioning of an entire Army corps during the 1944 Battle of the Bulge, began last June and is now about 35 percent complete, the Washington Post quoted Lt. Gen. William G. Webster Jr., commander of the Third Army, Patton's former unit, as saying.

In a briefing for Pentagon reporters from his headquarters in Kuwait, where equipment from Iraq is sorted, Lt. Gen. Webster said some of the gear is being refurbished for use in Afghanistan and some returned to the United States for use in training.

"This is the largest operation, that we've been able to determine, since the buildup for World War II," Lt. Gen. Webster said.

It involves the removal of 2.8 million pieces of equipment from Iraq, including 88,000 containers and 41,000 vehicles of all types.

Lt. Gen. Webster did not specify the cost of the operation, but acknowledged that it would run into the tens of billions of dollars.

He said the Third Army spent roughly 20 billion dollars on repairing equipment and supplying troops during the 2007 surge of U.S. forces into Iraq to contain escalating sectarian violence.

Those costs for Army operations in Iraq dropped to 16 billion dollars last year and are projected to dip to nine billion dollars this year, Lt. Gen. Webster said.

In a separate briefing Friday, Ashton B. Carter, Under Secretary of Defense for Logistics, said the military as a whole has already moved 2.2 million pieces of equipment out of more than 350 forward operating bases in Iraq. He said 1.2 million additional items needed to be removed by August.

As the military prepares for an offensive against the Taliban in the coming months, the Pentagon is pouring a vast array of gear to Afghanistan, including new unmanned dirigibles equipped with sophisticated aerial surveillance equipment.

President Obama last year ordered the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq by the end of August 2010, leaving a residual force of 35,000 to 50,000 to serve mainly in training and advisory roles. Under an agreement signed by the Bush administration with the Iraqi government in 2008, all U.S. troops must be out of Iraq by Dec. 31, 2011. (ANI)

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