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MRAP trucks: Afghan savior or boondoggle?

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"It's not so clear that we can develop a new class of vehicles every time we go to a new country," says Loren Thompson, chief operating officer of the Lexington Institute, a policy group in Washington.

The initial program to come up with a new breed of Afghan-friendly MRAPs, called Multi-Purpose All Terrain Vehicles, or M-ATVs, will cost $2 billion. The MRAP program has produced more than 16,000 vehicles in two years. This month, the Pentagon is expected to finalize a contract that would put more than 2,000 M-ATVs in Afghanistan – some by this fall.

The logic is clear: Roadside bomb attacks in Afghanistan are up some 80 percent over last year.

The day Rummel's truck was hit, he was using his MRAP as an ambulance to evacuate war wounded near the town of Now Zad in Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan, an area of intense fighting. Before his truck had even arrived in the gulch, four other improvised explosive devices had detonated in that area; two marines later needed amputations.

The explosion surprised Rummel, particularly because the Humvee in front of him had just driven through the same gulch unscathed.

As much as he loves the truck that protected his life, Rummel says the current MRAP isn't the right truck for Afghanistan, adding: "It's just too big of a vehicle."

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