The military is scrambling to finish what it calls the largest movement of troops and equipment since the buildup of World War II as it draws down in Iraq and ramps up in Afghanistan.
Third Army commander general Lt. Gen. William G. Webster told Pentagon reporters Friday the top priority is to keep moving the planned 30,000 troops and their supplies that President Barack Obama has ordered into Afghanistan to bolster the fight against the insurgency.
Speaking from Kuwait, Webster said the military is moving as fast as it can on the massive and complex job. There are roughly 3 million pieces of equipment in Iraq, including 41,000 vehicles and trailers.
Some of the equipment will remain in Iraq; some will return to the U.S. to be used for troop training; some will be reconfigured for use in Afghanistan.
Webster said officials expect to be able to move the more than 5,000 vehicles needed for the Afghanistan buildup into that country by the end of the summer.
Besides air deliveries to Afghanistan, the military is moving goods through neighboring Pakistan and is using a system of roads, rail and sea routes through Uzbekistan and other points to the north in Central Asia. The northern network of routes set up by the U.S. Transportation Command through Europe and Asia can stretch as far as 5,000 miles long and was set up as an alternative to routes through Pakistan, where militants have attacked trucks carrying fuel and other supplies for NATO forces in Afghanistan.
The three-point move of troops and materiel between Iraq, the U.S. and Afghanistan is estimated to cost tens of billions of dollars.
There are about 95,000 U.S. troops remaining in Iraq, and that number is to fall to 50,000 by the end of August. All American troops are scheduled to leave Iraq by the end of 2011.
Associated Press Writer Anne Flaherty contributed to this report.
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