Though the war on ISIS may seem far away, at least two notable developments regarding that conflict have involved work being done by Alabamians.
First and foremost, the U.S. Security Assistance Command (USASAC) at Redstone Arsenal ended 2015 with an impressive $20.5 billion in new sales. Security Assistance Command sells military equipment and spare parts as the Army’s “Face to the World” to U.S. allies and partner nations.
Along with sales of new equipment, Security Assistance Command also divested $2.5 billion last year in excess defense articles, equipment the Army no longer needed due to reduced military operations overseas. As the USASAC’s website notes, dealing unused equipment to allies who can use it represents significant cost avoidance — storing one armored personnel carrier costs $350 a year and there are tens of thousands of them.
The Iraqi Army obtained 1, 026 excess M113A2 armored personnel carriers two years ago that had been stored for nearly two decades at a West Coast depot. The Anniston Army Depot refurbished them, providing jobs here, before shipping them overseas, giving Iraq the potential to field several armored divisions. The U.S. cost avoidance for not having to demilitarize the vehicles, which involves draining engine fluids and removing hazardous materials, was $31 million.
Supplying new or refurbished equipment to our allies and partners against threats like ISIS “not only aids our allies who might not otherwise have access to the technologies, but are also beneficial to our men and women in uniform as well, ” USASAC’s Command Sgt. Maj. Dana Mason recently told WAAY-TV. “It also reduced the likelihood that American soldiers will have to put boots on the ground in foreign engagements, ” he said.
Boots on the ground was the second Alabama-related ISIS development of recent days. According to an analysis written by Amit Gupta, associate professor in the Department of International Security Studies at the USAF Air War College in Montgomery, the U.S. shouldn’t expect much in the way of substantial help from other nations in the ISIS battle.
While the U.S. has talked a good coalition game since the first Gulf War, participation by other countries has remained minimal. Through November 2015, Gupta notes, the U.S. suffered 4, 495 casualties in Iraq while the next-closest partner, the United Kingdom, lost 179.
Despite the lack of “real partners, ” as Gupta calls them, willing to dispatch troops, calls for a tougher policy against ISIS are loud and clear in presidential political campaigns, and a recent Harvard University poll indicated that 62 percent of millennials want combat soldiers in Syria to battle Islamic radicals. The irony, according to Gupta, is that 60 percent of millennials are unwilling to serve in the U.S. military.
Text by Dave Helms