After 13 years in Afghanistan, a belligerent period considered to be “America’s longest war,” combat troops are coming home. But they’re not the only ones packing up in the country. Wisconsin National Guard’s 829th Engineer Company, the same outfit that built the U.S. military’s infrastructure for the war beginning in 2001, is now dismantling bases that once served as residences for soldiers and other staffers, and bringing them back stateside to “recycle billions of dollars worth of materiel used to wage a war.”

Foreign Policy magazine:

Grob and Kramer were part of a small group of electricians, plumbers, and carpenters from the Wisconsin National Guard’s 829th Engineer Company that quietly deployed in the fall of 2001 with the task of building infrastructure for the United States’ war effort in Afghanistan. They built housing, installed wiring, and laid pipes.

Now they’re back with a different mission: breaking down tents, deconstructing hangars, boxing up parts. Vast bases that once housed thousands of troops plus all of their equipment from Humvees and cargo planes to desks and stoves are rapidly disappearing as the terrain reverts back to what it looked like before the war…The future of Afghanistan is uncertain; recent events in Iraq have shown that military engagement can continue long after the official withdrawal date. But for now, the focus of the 829th and other U.S. military engineer units is on shutting down America’s longest war…the goal is to save as many U.S. taxpayer dollars spent on this conflict as possible — and return the Afghan countryside to what it looked like before U.S. and coalition forces arrived.

“Buildings, walls, everything you see has to come down. Everything gets recycled, including wood and nails,” said Capt. Kyle Gruber, commander of the 829th Engineers.

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—Posted by Natasha Hakimi Zapata

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