Afghans Want To Charge U.S. For Removing Military Gear


In what may be the most bizarre twist in the United States’ withdrawal from the Afghanistan War, the removal of American military equipment is being held up by a bureaucratic dispute based in the Afghan’s attempt to charge the U.S. for equipment removed from the country:

An escalating dispute between the Afghan government and the United States over customs procedures has halted the flow of U.S. military equipment across Afghanistan’s borders, forcing commanders to rely more heavily on air transport, which has dramatically increased the cost of the drawdown, according to military officials.

The Afghan government is demanding that the U.S. military pay $1,000 for each shipping container leaving the country that does not have a corresponding, validated customs form. The country’s customs agency says the American military has racked up $70 million in fines.

If left unresolved, the disagreement could inflate the price tag of the U.S. military drawdown by hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars because of the higher cost of shipping by air — an unwelcome expenditure at a time when the Pentagon is scrambling to cope with steep congressionally mandated budget cuts and the White House is attempting to jump-start negotiations over a long-term security cooperation deal with Kabul.

The Afghan government’s demand for payment is part of a broader dispute over Kabul’s authority to tax entities from the United States, its chief benefactor. As the war economy that for years bankrolled Afghanistan’s political elite starts to deflate, the government is increasingly insisting that U.S. defense contractors pay business taxes and fines for a range of alleged violations.

The latest fight has added a new irritant to negotiations over a bilateral security agreement that will address the possibility of a residual U.S. military force in Afghanistan after 2014, when the NATO combat mission formally concludes. Washington and Kabul remain at odds over several details of the security deal, including the types of taxes and customs fees that would be imposed on the force and its contractors.

I must admit to being as confused about this as Kevin Drum. We invaded Afghanistan, arguably liberating them from the grip of the Taliban and their al Qaeda allies. We’ve spent ten years or so fighting to protect the government of Hamid Karzai from those same forces. And now they want to charge us to leave? Surely, this is a first, isn’t it? On the other hand, I can see a benefit here. If we knew going into a war that we’d have to pay money to get out at the end perhaps we’d be less willing to start it.

FILED UNDER: Afghanistan War, Military Affairs, , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. I must admit to being as confused about this as Kevin Drum. We invaded Afghanistan

    It’s extortion, plain and simple. Karzai and his friends need some more money before they have to flee the country after the U.S. leaves.

  2. OldmanRick says:

    Gotta love that political blackmail from an alleged ally. Really it’s nothing more than Karzai’s get out of town fund after the US departs.

  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    We can not get out of there soon enough.

  4. Mikey says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Indeed. We should have pulled out a long time ago and told Karzai if he didn’t keep a lid on the Taliban, the next JDAM we dropped would be on his house.

  5. JKB says:

    Good to see Obama has that “good war” well in hand.

    Here’s an idea, we expend $1000 of ammunition per container to drive off the thugs then be on our way. They can keep the casings and bullets.

  6. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @JKB: That sounds great! I mean, surely there wouldn’t be any retaliation against the troops and contractors still fulfilling their responsibilities in the country.

    What could possibly go wrong?

  7. 11B40 says:


    What really really surprises me is that Muslims of all degrees are usually, or mostly, or even on a rare and unrepeatable occasion so good not only to each other but especially to whatever kuffars they come across wherever. I refuse to fall victim to Fouad Ajami’s relentless propaganda that those are the lands of “I against my brother; my brother and I against our cousin; and, my cousin, my brother, and I against the stranger”. Like I always say, if you have to have a religion, why not have one of a supremacist bent?

    Trying to treat honorably with people of no discernible honor is lunacy.

  8. snooop1e says:

    @Timothy Watson:

    How ironic, we went to Afghanistan to chase out Al Qaeda and the Taliban and help usher in Democracy and Free Enterprise and it looks like they are fully embracing free enterprise and implementing everything we taught them.