Retrograde from Afghanistan



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Afghan War News > Topics > Retrograde

The United States (and its coalition allies) are withdrawing from Afghanistan. At one time there were over 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. In April 2014 there were about 32,000 troops in-country. By the Fall of 2014 that number dropped to around 10,000 troops where it stabilized for a number of months.

"Retrograde is a process for the movement of equipment and materiel from a deployed theater to a Reset (replace, recapitalize, or repair) program or to another theater of operations to replenish unit stocks or satisfy stock requirements. Equipment is redistributed in accordance with theater priorities to meet mission requirements within areas of responsibility (AORs) and thus Department of Defense (DoD) requirements worldwide. The Army Materiel Command (AMC) is the Army’s executive agent for retrograde." 2.

Bases. The coalition is closing bases at a rapid pace. These bases are either closed down completely or turned over to Afghan forces either partially or in full. In 2012 there were about 400 bases throughout Afghanistan. By the end of 2013 there were less than 70 bases. By mid-2014 there were only about 60 bases. By the end of 2014 there were only 24 bases.

Equipment. There is billions of dollars of equipment that must be shipped home, turned over to the Afghans, or destroyed. Much of the equipment, some of it perfectly usable, is being destroyed and sold for scrap metal. This has caused huge consternation among Afghans who see perfectly good air conditioners, vehicles, tools, and other items destroyed and dumped in land fills. 3.

Rolling Stock. A lot of vehicles both heavy and light have been moved out of theater. Some very expensive MRAPs have been cut up and sold on the Afghan market for scrap metal. By mid-2014 there were at least 5,000 vehicles left in theater.

1742nd Transportation Company South Dakota Army National Guard
1742nd Trans Company Convoy (photo SPC Witte)

Destruction of Vehicles in Theater. Approximately 3,600 vehicles were destroyed; instead of shipping them from theater or turning them over to the Afghans. 4.

Cost of Shipping. Moving equipment from Afghanistan to the United States is expensive. There are two methods. The first is by air but it is expensive. The second is a land-route by truck to a seaport (usually Pakistan). In some cases the Northern Distribution Network or NDN traveling through the Central Asian nations is used.

Hazardous Waste Material. One aspect of the retrograde operation is the closing of the small and large bases throughout Afghanistan. Conducting military operations throughout Afghanistan for over 13 years results in the accumulation of large amounts of hazardous waste material on these bases. As part of the drawdown - NATO, the United States military and other Coalition partners have to dispose of this hazardous waste material in a responsible manner and in compliance with European Commission directives and regulations (as well as individual nation policies) for disposal. Read an article that describes the hazardous waste material problem and how one firm - EcoLog International - is assisting in the process of hazardous waste material disposal in "Cleaning NATO's EcoWaste in Afghanistan", by K. Aisha Abdelhamid posted on The Inspired Economist dated January 7, 2015.

Yard Sale. Some items will be given to the Afghan National Security Forces while others will be sold off at a yard sale. 1.

CENTCOM Material Recovery Element (CMRE). The CMRE supported regional command and brigade combat team efforts to bring property to record, inventory and account for containers, process material for retrograde, and close down forward operating bases (or transfer these outposts, COPs, and bases to the ANSF). A huge amount of excess material had accumulated after 13 years of operations in Afghanistan and the CMRE assisted in the responsible disposition of this material. 5.

Base Closure Assistance Team (BCAT). During the retrograde operation hundreds of COPs and FOBs had to be closed or transferred to the ANSF. The BCATs assisted units residing on these bases with the closure or transfer process. 6.

Operation Reliable Tempo. This operation took place from June 2012 to December 2014. Read more about it in "Reliable Tempo draws down 13-year combat footprint in Afghanistan", DVIDS, April 16, 2015.

Publications on Retrograde from Afghanistan
(listed in chronological order)

DoDIG, Acquisition Processes and Contract Management, DoDIG-2015-126 Audit Report, May 18, 2015. The objective of the report was to determine whether DoD was providing effective contract oversight at the Redistribution Property Assistance Team (RPAT) sites in Afghanistan

USFOR-A, Infographic - A Year of Transition and Drawdown,  United States Forces - Afghanistan, January 6, 2015. Infographic depicts retrograde of personnel, vehicles, and cargo containers out of Afghanistan. Depicts useage of fuel, meals consumed, and bases closed.

Donnahoe, Captain Christopher A. "Reverse Logistics Operations in Afghanistan", Army Sustainment Bulletin, November-December 2012.

CALL, Responsible Drawdown and Reset Special Study, Special Study 11-40, September 2001 (FOUO). Observations, Insights, and Lessons from the Iraq War drawdown, Center for Army Lessons Learned (CALL).

SIGAR, Letter on Transfer of Bases to ANSF, SIGAR 15-48-SP, April 17, 2015. This inquiry letter to the Secretary of Defense asks for information about the transfer of hundreds of former U.S. military bases in Afghanistan to the ANSF.

Videos about Retrograde from Afghanistan

Bagram: The War on Wood, video about the destruction of B-huts on BAF. NATO.

Enduring Legacy Part 6: Transitioning to the Resolute Support Mission,  DVIDS, August 24, 2014. Video shows some of the descoping activities at U.S. bases in Afghanistan.

March 6, 2014. "Challenges Change Daily in Planning Afghan Exit". DVIDS.

September 28, 2013. "The Retrograde Process in Afghanistan". DoDLive.

News Reports of about Retrograde from Afghanistan

September 8, 2015. "Ammo abatement Soldiers perform critical tasks". DVIDS. Units and equipment could suffer from episodes of "frustration" if their ammo is not "abated" during retrograde operations.

April 8, 2015. "Ready, set, retrograde". U.S. Air Force News, April 8, 2015. The article describes one AF organizations role in the retrograde process.

March 12, 2015. "Afghanistan Retrograde: Materiel Command's Logistics Feat Like No Other". Army Magazine. This article captures the history, challenges, and accomplishments about the retrograde from Afghanistan.

March 3, 2015. "304th Eng. Company returns from Middle East". DVIDS. The 304th spent a lot of time at Bagram doing 'deconstruction'. Tearing down buildings and tents!

January 7, 2015. "A new era of retrograde operations as squadron inactivates". U.S. Air Force News Release. The 455th Expeditionary Aerial Port Squadron is inactivated.

January 6, 2015. "2014 was a year of transition, drawdown for USFOR-A". NATO RS News. Infographic on retrograde of vehicles, personnel, base closings, etc. for 2014.

December 31, 2014. "608th Construction Management Team Retrograde Afghanistan". DVIDS. The CMT assisted in descoping projects and closing or transferring FOBs.

December 5, 2014. "With the Troops: Copters packed for trip home". Fayetteville Observer. The 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade has packed up almost 80 helicopters for the ride to U.S.

December 4, 2014. "Hawaii-based unit completes mission as final brigade to lead material recovery element in Afghanistan". DVIDS. The 45th Sustainment Brigade's headquarters was the lead element for the Central Command Material Recovery (CMRE) charged with sorting, tracking and recovering all U.S. military equipment from the operational area.

December 1, 2014. "Sustainers complete historic mission". DVIDS. The 3rd Sustainment Command (3 ESC) is casing its colors and heading home after assisting in the "de-scoping" of bases and retrograde of personnel and equipment back to the U.S.

November 19, 2004. "Retrograde in full gear". U.S. Air Force. Units from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware are profiled in this news release.

November 11, 2014. "Marine pullout offers preview of what U.S. leaves behind for Afghan troops". The Washington Post.

October 27, 2014. "New York Army National Guard Soldiers return to United States following Afghan deployment". DVIDS. 1569th Transportation Company returns after 20 month long deployment helping coalition forces consolidate and close operating bases.

October 26, 2014. "NATO coalition hands over two major bases to Afghan military", The Washington Post,  October 26, 2014.

October 24, 2014. "18th AF goes big on retrograde operations". Air Mobility Command.

September 26, 2014. "Army and Air Force Teamwork and Persistance Critical to Retrograde Mission". DVIDS.

September 15, 2014. "48th IBCT returns home". DVIDS. The 48th (Georgia Army National Guard) was responsible for the logistics and security of bases in the Kabul area.

September 12, 2014. "Final days for an Army base in Afghanistan", The Washington Post. FOB Lightning in Gardex (RC East) soon to close. The ANA 203rd Corps will lose the benefit of advisor who can visit them on a daily and persistant basis. This leaves an ANA army corps and its four brigades 'uncovered'.

August 25, 2014. "End of an era: AF EOD mission wraps up in Afghanistan".  U.S. Air Force.

August 21, 2014. "Last trucks rolling out of Camp Phoenix". DVIDS. The Kabul area base provided support to the Kabul cluster of bases in Afghanistan.

August 12, 2014. Retrograde of equipment from Afghanistan on track, US CENTCOM.

August 4, 2014. "Pentagon selling - and scrapping - equipment in Afghanistan". The Washington Post.

August 1, 2014. "Downsizing the War: Layoffs and Yard Sales in Afghanistan". The Daily Beast.

July 23,2014. "Billons worth of US Army kit to remain in Afghanistan after withdrawal". IHS Jane's 360.

July 20, 2014. "FOB Walton closes: A step in the right direction". DVIDS. Located in Kandahar province this FOB is closing down.

July 17, 2014. "The devil is in the details: R3B streamlines retrograde decisions". Closing down of RC Southwest takes coordination.

April 26, 2014. "133rd Eng. Bn. takes care of deconstruction, troops in Afghanistan". DVIDS. The Maine engineer battalion conducts retrograde activities.

April 2, 2014. "Good-bye, Manas". Radio Free Europe. A important transit location in Central Asia used for the movement of troops in and out of Afghanistan will soon close.

April 1, 2014. "Suitcase-sized capability keeps coalition network running during retrograde". The Globa Rapid Response Information Package or GRRIP is a small comms setup that will connect to a base station by satellite located in the states.

March 16, 2014. "Pakistan eyes U.S. military equipment in Afghanistan". The Washington Post. Country is interested in MRAPs that are excess.

March 14, 2014. "U.S. Must Demolish Thousands of Its Vehicles in Afghanistan". DoD Buzz. 1,230 million-dollar MRAPs are excess.

March 14, 2014. "Dunford Explains 102-Day Theory for Orderly Withdrawal".  American Forces Press Service. 102 days from December 31st is when full retrograde of all forces and equipment needs to start if there is no signed BSA.

March 13, 2014. "Commander: US needs 102 days for full Afghan drawdown". The Hill DEFCON Blog.

March 9, 2014. "Transit center ferries troops to, from Afghanistan". Air Force Times.

March 1, 2014. "US transit hub in Romania fully operational". Stars and Stripes. A temporary U.S. base in Romania will serve as the primary hub for U.S. forces leaving Afghanistan.

February 28, 2014. "Crews ready to withdraw people, equipment from Afghanistan". Air Force Times. Cdr of U.S. Transportation Command commments on retrograde.

February 27, 2014. "Afghanistan 'Zero Option' Creates Challenges for Military Logisticians". National Defense Business and Technology Magazine.

February 5, 2014. "First troops move through new US transit center in Romania". Stars and Stripes. The transit hub in Romania is now operational and will soon replace the hub in Manas. The MK Passenger Transit Center is located on the Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base.

February 4, 2014. "Combat airlift role critical to retrograde operations". DVIDS. To accomplish the massive retrograde of men, equipment and vehicles the U.S. Air Force is using the C-17 Globemaster.

January 14, 2014. "At Marine outpost in Afghanistan, conditions grow more austere by the day". Marine Corps Times. Camp Dwyer gets smaller and smaller as time goes on.

December 16, 2013. "High Afghan Exit Costs Force US Military to Contemplate End of Era". Defense Industry Daily. Article explores the possible future uses of the MRAPs and costs of shipping them to the U.S. or other countries.

November 6, 2013. "US trashes, sells its unwanted gear in Afghanistan". Stars and Stripes. Destruction of perfectly good equipment alienates Afghans who want to put the equipment to good use in businesses, homes, and with the ANSF. Afghans are not happy with stupid and wasteful U.S. policy.

October 21, 2013. "ANA takes authority of base in southern Afghanistan". DVIDS. Forward Operating Base Zangabad is turned over to the ANA. As the U.S. (and other coalition members) withdraw many of the bases are being transferred to the ANA. In order for the ANA to assume control of these bases they are redesigned, de-scoped, and then signed over.

October 17, 2013. "National Guard preps to support drawdown in Afghanistan". DVIDS. The 133rd Engineer Battalion from the Maine Army National Guard has completed its pre-deployment training and will soon ship out to Afghanistan where it will conduct operations in support of the retrograde from Afghanistan.

October 11, 2013. "Retrograde Process Saves Lives, Money". American Forces Press Service. The CENTCOM Material Recovery Element is responsible for supplying and moving troops throughout Afghanistan and plays a huge role in the retrograde process.

October 7, 2013. "Last cargo mission out of FOB Sharana". U.S. Air Force. C-130 flies the last of equipment and men out of big base turned over to the Afghans.

October 6, 2013. "Germany hands over military base to Afghans". A military base in the northern province of Kunduz was passed to the Afghans after over ten years of German participation in the security of the province.

October 6, 2013. "AF movement team oversees retrograde operations". Air Mobility Command. Team works withdrawal of equipment from FOB Salerno, Afghanistan.

October 4, 2013. "Army's top logistician remains cautiously optimistic on Afghanistan withdrawal". Says as long as the NDN and PAKGLOC stays open we are fine.

September 20, 2013. "$3B price tag to bring gear home from Afghanistan". Navy Times.

September 13, 2013. "Carter Arrives in Afghanistan to Review Retrograde Progress". American Forces Press Service.

August 14, 2013. "US Army used DACMS to accelerate equipment retrograde in Afghanistan".

June 21, 2013. "CENTCOM Undertakes Massive Logistical Drawdown in Afghanistan". American Forces Press Service.

May 2, 2013. "Afghanistan retrograde moving fast". Marine Corps Times.

April 27, 2013. "The big retrograde". The Economist.

February 7, 2013. "Logisticians of the Army Material Command hold a briefing about retrograde in Zabul province". ISAF News.

February 3, 2013. "Retrograde Lessons: Learning from Afghanistan's Logistical Nightmare". Time World.

January 23, 2013. "Afghanistan in Retrograde: America Prepares to Withdraw". Time World.





1. See "Operation: Yard Sale to Ease Military Retrograde From Afghanistan", The Duffel Blog, September 22, 2013.

2. For the definition of retrograde see "Information Papers - Retrograde" at the link below:

3. For more on perfectly good equipment being destroyed in Afghanistan see "With U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, American military gear sold as scrap". The Washington Post. . . . -from-afghanistan.html

4. See an online news article by Military Times for the 3,600 number provided by LTG Anderson (IJC commander in 2014) at this link.

5. For more information on the CMRE read "Responsible retrograde in Afghanistan",, March 4, 2015.

6. For more information on the BCAT read "Base closure assistance team: a valuable resource for closing FOBs", by 1st Lt. Joseph Fumo,, March 4, 2015.




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