A pole-dancer’s pole and strobe lights, packs of six-year-old spoiled meat and a brand new, unused van — just some of the equipment in Iraq that has turned up in the American military withdrawal.
The drama of bombing raids and firefights transmitted on live television marked the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, but for those last out of the door, packing up to go home is a more humdrum and often tedious business.
More than three million pieces of military equipment spread throughout Iraq and worth around $36.4 billion must be accounted for before a US troop withdrawal due by the end of 2011.
“I can’t believe how much crap has accumulated,” said Gunnery Sergeant Gwen Sanders at a US military transport hub in Kuwait, returning to Iraq to catalogue equipment.
“Nobody really paid attention to accountability until the drawdown push. A lot of squadrons are complaining: ‘Why just because I’m the last out here do I have to clean up after everyone?’” she added.
The US Third Army, responsible for equipment and personnel transfer, is preparing for a surge in activity.
Violence has fallen sharply in Iraq since the worst of the sectarian bloodshed triggered by the US invasion, Iraq’s army has grown in size and confidence, and the country’s leaders are keen to assert Iraqi sovereignty and independence.
But much hinges on the outcome of a general election in January, a milestone for Iraq’s fragile democracy, and on whether Iraq can defend itself as US forces withdraw.