Mine resistant ambush protected vehicles are loaded onto the USNS Pililaau in 2007 at the seaport of Charleston, S.C. (US Army)
WASHINGTON — While controversy swirls over reports that Pakistan may receive some of the excess Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles that the United States has sitting in Afghanistan, American and Pakistani officials are on the verge of completing a deal to send new and excess MRAPs to Islamabad, Defense News has learned.
The 160 vehicles, all of which would be the MaxxPro MRAP variant made by US manufacturer Navistar, would be a mix of new builds and some from US Army prepositioned stocks in Kuwait, according to a person familiar with the negotiations who is not authorized to speak for attribution.
While no formal notification of the deal has yet been sent to Congress since the last stages of the vetting process are still being completed, the official expected a notification to head to Capitol Hill by the end of this month.
The spat over the potential MRAP sale began in March when the Washington Post reported that the United States was considering giving Pakistan some MRAPs that the US didn’t want to pay to ship home once the mission in Afghanistan draws to a close. The report came at the same time as Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, commander of the coalition and US Forces in Afghanistan, said there are more than 1,200 excess MRAPs in country.
For a while, US forces were literally shredding to bits the hulking MRAP infantry carriers that it doesn’t want to pay to bring home, but Dunford has since put a halt to that program while final decisions on the ultimate fate of the fleet are being made.
The holdup on the deal for the 160 MRAPs centers around a congressionally mandated human rights vetting process that all US foreign training and equipping programs must undergo.
Known as the “Leahy Amendment” after the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the law stipulates that US forces cannot train or equip foreign military or police units that have been accused of human rights abuses.
The 160 MRAPs would be split among the branches of the Pakistani armed forces. Although specific army and air force units have been identified and vetted, the Pakistani Navy has yet to submit all of the required information, according to the official.
While it hasn’t been reported previously, the Pakistani armed forces have already been supplied with 22 MRAPs — 20 MaxxPro’s along with two “haulers” to move them if damaged — under a now-canceled State Department program known as the Pakistan Counterinsurgency Capability Fund. The vehicles were drawn out of the US Army’s existing stock in Kuwait.
The fund was axed in the US government’s fiscal 2014 budget.
The State Department and the US Embassy in Islamabad have been tying themselves in rhetorical knots over the past week trying to explain the situation over the potential MRAP transfer, all without giving specifics or mentioning the MRAPs already sent to Pakistan or the deal currently in the works.
On March 31, the Islamabad embassy issued a statement confirming that Pakistan has requested “a variety of Excess Defense Articles (EDA). The U.S. is currently reviewing Pakistan’s request.” In what appears to be a nod to the pending deal, the embassy added that “if approved, this EDA is likely to be sourced from U.S. stock outside Afghanistan.”
The State Department weighs EDA requests on a “case-by-case basis taking into consideration a range of factors including the need of potential recipients, regional security dynamics, how the recipient nations intend to use the equipment and the ability of an EDA recipient to sustain the equipment,” the embassy said. ■