- Title: IRAQ: U.S. pullout a mountainous challenge
- Date: 24th August 2010
- Summary: LODGING CARAVANS OF SERVICEMEN AT CAMP SERVICEMAN LEAVING CARAVAN CARRYING LUGGAGE AND BACKPACK SERVICEMAN CARRYING BACKPACK WALKING TOWARDS BACKPACKS LINED UP ON GROUND OF YARD OF CAMP SERVICEMEN LEAVING BACKPACK (SOUNDBITE) (English) SERGEANT 1ST CLASS, JAMES BARTELS, SAYING: "It's been a while. It's been going on about three weeks now just equipment and clothing and gear. A lot of guys have acquired extra things, either sent from home, from their loved ones or they bought here souvenirs or what not, they have been mailed out to the post office, so it has been a while." LONG LINE OF BACKPACK ON GROUND OF CAMP YARD/ SERVICEMEN STANDING NEAR THEIR PERSONAL BACKPACKS AT BACKGROUND BACKPACKS ON GROUND AND SERVICEMEN WAITING NEARBY TO LEAVE CLOSE UP OF WAITING SERVICEMEN SERVICEMEN WALKING TO WAITING TRUCKS BAGHDAD, IRAQ (AUGUST 10, 2010) (REUTERS): AERIAL VIEW OF VICTORY CAMP NEAR BAGHDAD AIRPORT MORE OF AERIAL VIEW OF CAMP
- Embargoed: 8th September 2010 13:38
- Location: Iraq
- Country: Iraq
- Topics: International Relations,Defence / Military
- Reuters ID: LVA6DEO3XV60T6M3X26RALZNXKRB
- Aspect Ratio: 4:3
- Story Text: For the past four weeks First Lieutenant Sidney Leslie's mind was not on military convoys in Iraq but just on packing up, loading trucks and going home to Bedford, Virginia, USA.
His 1st Battalion of the 116th Infantry Regiment ran military convoys across Iraq but is now among thousands of troops pulling out as the U.S. military cuts its numbers in Iraq to 50,000 by August 31 when combat operations end.
"We started about three months ago. The whole process to turn in equipment took a whole month," said Leslie, Executive Officer at Alpha Company, speaking while soldiers load their rucksacks on to a truck in the middle of the night.
The operation involved in extricating the U.S. military from Iraq after 7-1/2 years of war is one of the biggest logistical challenges it has ever faced.
Almost 100,000 U.S. soldiers have been redeployed over the past 18 months, many to Afghanistan where NATO-led forces are confronting a resurgent Taliban.
Around 2.2 million pieces of equipment, including thousands of tanks, armoured troop carriers and trucks, have streamed out of the country and more than 500 of 600 bases, some the size of small cities, closed down or handed to Iraqi counterparts.
Just under a million items worth 151 million U.S. dollars (USD), ranging from SUVs and Humvees to air conditioners, have been deemed surplus to U.S. requirements and donated to Iraqi security forces.
Based in Contingency Operating Base Adder, or Camp Adder, near Nassiriya, 300 km (185 miles) south of Baghdad, Leslie's unit alone moved gear worth at least 20 million USD, he said.
Logistical units worked day and night at Camp Adder, a large air base complex that dates back to the regime of Saddam Hussein before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, to keep the U.S. military to its withdrawal schedule.
The 1st Battalion of the 116th Infantry packed up some 200 vehicles, said its commander, Lieutenant Colonel Scott Smith, of Lynchburg, Virginia.
"The equipment they own in the area between 20 to 30 million dollars, so, it is a lot of gear, it is motor pools full of gear. But we had a good plan where, as we conducted convoy missions, one convoy escort team at a time, about six or seven vehicles we stood down weekly," he said, waiting to board a plane bound for neighbouring Kuwait.
Every day over the past weeks, convoys of 40 or more trucks and troop carriers have rumbled south through hundreds of km (miles) of desert to Kuwait, the launchpad of the invasion.
"It's been a while. It's been going on about three weeks now just equipment and clothing and gear. A lot of guys have acquired extra things, either sent from home, from their loved ones or they bought here souvenirs or what not, they have been mailed out to the post office, so it has been a while," said Sergeant James Bartels The convoys prefer to roll at night, to have clear roads and reduce the threat of roadside bomb attacks, mainly carried out in the south by Shi'ite militia, but with so much tonnage to be moved they have also been running by day through the pounding heat of the Iraqi summer.
More than 4,400 U.S. troops have been killed in Iraq since the 2003 invasion. Overall violence has ebbed from the peak of sectarian warfare in 2006/07, but bombings are still routine, making the job of protecting U.S. convoys a dangerous one.
"One convoy can take eight hours, we had some that ran 16 hours that's non-stop in a truck. When you count breakdowns and other things that happen to you along the way, it does slow the trip down," said Sergeant Kevin Stewart of Appomattox, Virginia.
"It's never relaxed on the road," agreed Sergeant Barry Curtis of Colonial Heights, Virginia.
The six U.S. military brigades remaining behind in Iraq ahead of a full withdrawal by Dec. 31, 2011 will be tasked with advising and assisting Iraqi police and troops.
That does not mean they won't face combat - they will still be armed to the teeth and ready to defend themselves if necessary, U.S. military officials say.
But responsibility for battling Sunni Islamist insurgents and Shi'ite militia will rest fully with Iraqi security forces.
The country remains violent and vulnerable and the number of civilian deaths almost doubled in July compared to the previous month, according to Iraqi government figures.
Insurgents have kept up a stream of attacks in the aftermath of a March election that produced no clear winner, and as yet no new government, and which pitted a Sunni-backed cross-sectarian alliance against the country's main Shi'ite political factions.
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