5 years, 9 months ago
Those who have been following our discussions on the state of Pakistan know that one particularly acute vulnerability of the counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan is the stability of the Pakistani regime, and thus the stability of the lines of supplies to NATO forces through Pakistan. These lines are both over land and air space, and their use is critical to the success of the campaign given that Afghanistan is land-locked. The Pentagon knows how important these lines are, and thus they have been studying Plan B (h/t Wretchard).
WASHINGTON, Nov. 14, 2007 – The U.S. military is examining different contingencies for supplying American troops in Afghanistan if supplies can no longer be shipped through Pakistan, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said today.
Morrell hastened to add that the unrest in Pakistan following President Pervez Musharraf instituting a state of emergency has not impinged on U.S. supply lines through or over Pakistan.
Morrell said at a Pentagon news conference that the supply line issue “is a very real area of concern for our commanders in Afghanistan, because 75 percent of all of our supplies for our troops in Afghanistan flow either through or over Pakistan.” This includes about 40 percent of the fuel shipped to U.S. forces, which comes directly from Pakistani refineries. No ammunition goes through Pakistan, the press secretary said.
“Supplies to our troops in Afghanistan continue to flow freely through Pakistan, and for that we are grateful,” he said. “But the U.S. is not taking the passage for granted. Planners are working on contingency supply lines to our troops if it becomes necessary to alter the way we now support our troops.”
Morrell could not say what the contingency plans are, but was confident troops would be supplied if a “Plan B” were needed. “We are a can-do operation,” he said. “They’ll figure out a way to get it done if it needs to get done.”
Plan B may have begun to emerge.
A NATO official said Wednesday that Uzbekistan has allowed some members of the alliance, including the United States, to use an air base on its territory in a signal of thawing relations with the West.
Uzbekistan evicted U.S troops from an air base in the Karshi-Khanabad region, 90 miles from the Afghan border, in 2005 after the U.S. criticized a crackdown on unarmed demonstrators in the eastern city of Andijan in May that year.
President Islam Karimov said in December that he favored good relations with the United States and Europe. Since then, a base in the country has since been used as a transit point for troops and equipment headed to Afghanistan, NATO’s Central Asia envoy, Robert Simmons, told reporters in Moscow. He did not name the base.
But all is not well just yet. If this is plan B, it needs much more work. The base being referred to is Termez, and little more than troops can transit through this air base right now.
Uzbekistan is once again allowing the US to use a base in the south of the country for operations in Afghanistan.
US troops attached to Nato forces would be allowed to use Termez airbase if travelling on German planes, the US military told the BBC.
US troops were evicted from Uzbekistan in 2005 after the US condemned it for shooting protesters in Andijan city.
German forces were allowed to continue using the airbase at Termez, on the border with Afghanistan.
Uzbekistan has made no comment on the new arrangement, but a US military spokesman said US troops “can use the German air-bridge from Termez to Afghanistan on a case-by-case basis”.
The spokesman said the US had no bases of its own, had not requested any bases from the Uzbek government and had no plans to do so.
Perhaps this is posturing rather than showing our full hand, but plans had better be in place to strengthen ties with Uzbekistan very soon. Prosecuting the global war on terror will involve working with some very unsavory characters, and the insult to Karimov in 2005 was stupid. How he governs his country is none of our concern as long as he is an asset rather than a detriment to the long war. We must be practical, and hopefully these several years since the icy relations with Uzbekistan have given us wisdom.