5 years ago
Three days ago The Captain’s Journal published How Many Troops Can We Logistically Support in Afghanistan?, and since Glenn Reynolds linked it at Instapundit, it got plenty of web traffic. As of that date, although we had been covering Torkham, Khyber, Karachi, Chaman and the lines of logistical supply to troops in Afghanistan, we had not seen any American main stream media reports detailing the logistical difficulties and issues.
Enter the Washington Post, which today published an article entitled U.S. Seeks New Supply Routes Into Afghanistan. The same themes we discussed appear in this Washington Post report, although they also detail some new action to create other routes of supply.
TORKHAM, Afghanistan, Nov. 18 — A rise in Taliban attacks along the length of a vital NATO supply route that runs through this border town in the shadow of the Khyber Pass has U.S. officials seeking alternatives, including the prospect of beginning deliveries by a tortuous overland journey from Europe.
Supplying troops in landlocked Afghanistan has long been the Achilles’ heel of foreign armies here, most recently the Soviets, whose forces were nearly crippled by Islamist insurgent attacks on vulnerable supply lines.
About 75 percent of NATO and U.S. supplies bound for Afghanistan — including gas, food and military equipment — are transported over land through Pakistan. The journey begins in the southern Pakistani port city of Karachi and continues north through Pakistan’s volatile North-West Frontier Province and tribal areas before supplies arrive at the Afghan border. The convoys then press forward along mountain hairpin turns through areas of Afghanistan that are known as havens for insurgents.
Drivers at this busy border crossing say death threats from the Taliban arrive almost daily. Sometimes they come in the form of a letter taped to the windshield of a truck late at night. Occasionally, a dispatcher receives an early-morning phone call before a convoy sets off from Pakistan. More often, the threats are delivered at the end of a gun barrel.
“The Taliban, they tell us, ‘These goods belong to the Americans. Don’t bring them to the Americans. If you do, we’ll kill you,’ ” said Rahmanullah, a truck driver from the Pakistani tribal town of Landikotal. “From Karachi to Kabul there is trouble. The whole route is insecure.”
The growing danger has forced the Pentagon to seek far longer, but possibly safer, alternate routes through Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia, according to Defense Department documents. A notice to potential contractors by the U.S. Transportation Command in September said that “strikes, border delays, accidents and pilferage” in Pakistan and the risk of “attacks and armed hijackings” in Afghanistan posed “a significant risk” to supplies for Western forces in Afghanistan …
The United States has already begun negotiations with countries along what the Pentagon has called a new northern route. An agreement with Georgia has been reached and talks are ongoing with Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, according to an Oct. 31 Pentagon document. “We do not expect transit agreements with Iran or Uzbekistan,” the Transportation Command told potential contractors.
Whichever company gets the contract will have to provide security forces to protect the convoys. Port World Logistics, the transport company currently handling supplies going from Pakistan to Afghanistan, uses a Pakistani service, Dogma Security, and has also had some assistance from the Pakistani government’s Frontier Corps, according to a statement from the public affairs office of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan.
The new contractor will also be required to have intrusion detection devices and a real-time satellite tracking and tracing system that reports the location of each vehicle every 30 minutes.
Although it’s disappointing that it took approximately one year of harping on this subject, it’s good to see that it is getting the attention it deserves. The Captain’s Journal is glad to provide the best analysis well before it can be obtained open source.