Huge cleanup underway as troops leave Afghanistan
Published Saturday, July 2, 2011 5:31PM EDT
A mammoth operation is underway in Kandahar -- not to boost security in the area but to tear down the facilities that have housed much of Canada's military presence in Afghanistan.
Work crews are readying a huge amount of equipment to be shipped home thousands of kilometres away.
It's a formidable task, and part of a transition that will see U.S. forces take over security responsibilities in Kandahar province as Canadian combat troops pull out of the war-torn country.
Everything from dust filters to armoured vehicles need to be cleaned, fumigated, bar-coded and categorized before they're packed up.
"As a tradesman… this is one of those rare times that we're in the forefront rather than the back end," said Chief Warrant Officer Brian Tuepal. "We're really the pointy end on this deal."
Other equipment has been tapped for disposal, "which means we're going to try and sell it," said Lieut. Col. Virginia Tattersal, who heads up the Mission Closure Unit.
They have six months to fill more than 1,800 sea containers, which would be enough to cover "about 132 football fields," Tattersal said.
More than 1,000 vehicles also have to be de-bombed and dismantled, using a colour-coded checklist that dates back to the Second World War.
The unit even has to ensure that old computers are stripped so that no sensitive information falls into the wrong hands. Their circuit boards have to be smashed, and wiring has to be cut and shipped home.
The end goal, when all is said and done, is to make sure the Canadian military "has zero footprint left" on Kandahar Airfield, said Warrant Officer Michael Brown.
Unused metal coffins are also being carted away -- a reminder of the soldiers who have lost their lives since Canadian troops began relocating from Kabul to Kandahar province in late 2005.
Although Canadian combat troops have begun returning home as the mission winds down, hundreds of other Canadian military personnel are due to remain in Kabul.
They will be helping to train the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police, which will together take responsibility for the security of Afghanistan once NATO forces exit the country in the years ahead.
NATO hopes to hand over responsibility to the Afghan security forces by the end of 2014.
With a report from CTV's Lisa LaFlamme in Kandahar