The detritus of occupation comes in all shapes and sizes. In Iraq, it’s M-16 ammunition clips, rifle bipods and body armor at Baghdad’s Haraj market.

Or Playboy DVDs, Irish Spring soap and military-issue MREs (Meal, Ready-to-Eat) at a store in Karrada district, scavenged from the trash or more often skimmed off supplies at U.S. bases by industrious local contractors.

For traders in U.S. cast-offs, now is the last hurrah.

The remaining 85,000 U.S. soldiers in Iraq are pulling out over the next 18 months, and the Pentagon is getting rid of the fixtures and fittings of the bases they live in, some of it at auction, some bound for the black market.

Among the items hitting the streets are air-conditioners and refrigerators from 500 bases the U.S. operated at the height of its presence in 2007, when some 170,000 soldiers were trying to keep Iraq from tearing itself apart. The size of the U.S. force in Iraq meant many of the bases were like cities, with PX shops as big as Wal-Marts, and Burger King and Krispy Kreme stores.

The sectarian war has largely subsided. A stubborn insurgency unleashed after the U.S. invasion of 2003 is less intense but not yet extinguished.
In the western desert province of Anbar, a hotbed of Sunni Islamist insurgents in 2006/07, traders sift through old vacuum cleaners, satellite dishes and spare parts of U.S. military vehicles, stripping down wooden cabins and portable toilets.

Such are the spoils of modern war, while stocks last.

“I think the price of this equipment could go up because of the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq,” said Faiez Ahmed, picking through U.S. scrap near the Anbar city of Ramadi.

“Some of this equipment can still be used, like the fridges, air-conditioners, mattresses, tents,” he said. “The rest that can’t, like tires, goes to smelters in the north.

“People look for this equipment because of its specifications … and because what is available in the market is all either Chinese-made or Korean.” He did not specify how the equipment ended up there.

Source: Matt Robinson and Khalid al-Ansar for Reuters.

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