KABUL — Facing the daunting task of redeploying the entire ISAF Coalition and all of the equipment they have accumulated during a decade of war, ISAF Commander Gen. Joseph Dunford has ordered radical changes to the retrograde mission, launching a command-wide yard sale this Saturday from 0900-1300.
With NATO's 2013-14 budget for Afghanistan retrograde reduced from $1.3 billion to $73,000 in the aftermath of recent economic crises in Cyprus and Lichtenstein, ISAF was struggling to figure out how to get all their materiel out of the country.
After nearly 16 hours of video teleconference discussions with field grade officers from across the theater, Sgt. Pando Romano, Director of Coalition VTC operations, had an epiphany, though some observers described it more as a mental breakdown. Romano leapt upon the conference table and shouted at the room full of field grade officers.
"Hey, slapnuts! It's just like when you PCS and you realize your wife has bought too much crap and you’re going to be overweight for your move. What do you do then?"
The room full of field graders, who are all authorized approximately 14 tons of household goods and had never faced this conundrum, stared at him blankly. "Schedule an OPT?" offered one timid army Major.
"No! You have a fucking yard sale!" responded the emotionally exhausted Romano.
"I pitched my idea of having Retrograde Yard Sales to the old man early one morning, right after PT when he's in the best mood of the day,” said Lt. Col. Doug Friedman, Chief of Retrograde Operations. “You know, before he opens his email and reads about all the allegations of civilian casualties that are going to ruin his next 24 hours. He loved the originality of my idea and told me to implement it immediately."
Friedman said Dunford even offered to show his personal commitment by selling a pink bicycle, a cat named “CIVCAS-Metrix” and an enormous four-hose hookah pipe that Gen. Allen had left him during the ISAF change of command ceremony last winter.
"This is a way for us to expose Afghans to an incredibly rich and vibrant American tradition," said 1st Lt. Amy Longfellow, a Public Affairs Officer for ISAF. "Instead of bringing Afghans onto ISAF installations to sell us cheap trinkets, Pakistani rugs and fake Kashmir pashminas, we're bringing them onto the compound to bid on all of the first-rate western military equipment that we simply can't afford to ship home. The prices are really competitive and the Afghans like haggling with us even though we're horrible at it."
NATO leaders had previously acknowledged the high cost and sheer magnitude of moving tens of thousands of shipping containers and heavy vehicles over some of the worst roads in the world that lead from this mountainous, railroad-free, landlocked country to ocean ports in Pakistan or donkey-powered trains in former Soviet republics.
During the 2012 NATO Chicago Summit, officials noted "in order to withdraw all NATO equipment in time to meet the end of the ISAF mandate in 2014, every Afghan man, woman, child, and beast of burden would need to personally tow or carry three shipping containers to Karachi within the next year."
The buses required to ferry weary Afghans back to Afghanistan for subsequent loads would also need to be scuttled in the Oxus River.
According to Longfellow, the retrograde yard sale would not only save over $1 billion, but would also enhance counter-insurgency efforts to win Afghan hearts and minds “by demonstrating to Afghans our Christian-based ethos of giving. And giving and giving and giving and giving.”