More than 40% of Britain's Afghan military equipment may not return to the UK, according to Government exit strategy plans.
Millions of pounds worth of resources are expected to be scrapped, sold or given away following the withdrawal of troops under proposals drawn up by the Ministry of Defence (MoD). The plans - which are still to be finalised - have raised fears high-tech material could end up in the hands of the Taliban.
Government estimates suggest about 11,000 containers worth of equipment are currently in theatre, including around 3,000 vehicles. Of these, military chiefs plan to bring back some 6,500 loads. It would leave around 4,500 containers (40.9% of kit) to be disposed of in Afghanistan, according to plans revealed to the Press Association under the Freedom of Information Act.
The MoD has not disclosed the quantity or value of equipment it intends to hand to the Afghan state. It said decisions would be made "on a case-by-case basis" as experts questioned the reliability of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and warned kit could be passed to the enemy.
Dr John Louth, of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) defence think tank, said leaving 40% of equipment was not unusual following an overseas conflict but suggested there was a "risk to leaving things behind". "What is benevolent today could be quite nasty tomorrow," he said. "If people have equipment that they wish to sell, they will sell it.
"It is naive to think that won't occur, particularly given the nature of society and communities in that part of the world. It is a life of trade and absolutely everything is tradable."
He added: "The typical danger is that people who aren't your friend could somehow end up with it and use it. There could also be technical issues. Quite often we don't know everything that is in our kit. There could be some very interesting technology that, if you thought about it, you wouldn't want a third party to get."
Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy said the Government should "not waste a moment" in negotiating cost-effective transit routes to bring equipment back to Britain. "In an uncertain world it is essential that the UK retains much of the equipment deployed in Afghanistan," he said. "The Government should be open about UK equipment that will be scrapped, sold or wasted."
The MoD said it was reviewing its policies to ensure any equipment handed over was done so in line with Parliamentary, Treasury and National Audit Office rules.
"We are conscious that uncoordinated gifting of equipment could jeopardise the sustainability of the ANSF," it said. "Before gifting any equipment we must determine that the ANSF can sustain this equipment in terms of cost of ownership, support and enduring training. "
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