Caucasus Talks on Logistical Transit Routes for Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 7 months ago

Ever since The Captain’s Journal warned a year ago that logistical lines through Khyber would be targeted as part of the Taliban campaign, we’ve covered and analyzed the progress (or lack thereof) in developing new lines of supply.

There have been occasional problems further South in Pakistan, and while a smaller percentage of supplies goes to Kandahar from the port city of Karachi than through Khyber to Kabul, this recent attack may mark the beginning of a new phase of the Taliban campaign to interdict supplies in the South.

Gunmen in Pakistan on Tuesday torched a truck carrying supplies for NATO forces in neighbouring Afghanistan, leaving its driver and a helper wounded, police said.

Gunmen snatched the truck in Baluchistan province’s Soorab, 200 kilometres (120 miles) south of Quetta, and set it ablaze after wounding the driver and his helper, senior police official Khaild Baqi told AFP.

“The injuries to the driver were serious, but his helper’s condition is stable,” Baqi said.

Police chased the attackers and traded fire with them, but the search for them was continuing, he added.

Baqi said some 150 truckers parked their vehicles to protest against the attack but that the authorities were negotiating to persuade them to continue their journeys.

NATO and US-led forces in landlocked Afghanistan are hugely dependent on Pakistan for supplies and equipment, around 80 percent of which is transported through Pakistan.

Nobody claimed the responsibility for the attack.

Baluchistan has been rocked by a four-year insurgency waged by tribal rebels fighting for political autonomy and a greater share of profits from the region’s natural resources.

The province has also been hit by attacks blamed on Taliban militants.

On the other hand it may be the local insurgency rather than the Taliban, although Karachi already has elements of the Tehrik-i-Taliban, and Quetta is the home of the senior leadership of the Afghanistan Taliban.  Either way, this is not a good sign.

In other news, it appears that someone has been reading The Captain’s Journal.

US military officials have held talks with government and business representatives from Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan on the transport of supplies to Afghanistan, the US embassy in Baku said Tuesday.

The two days of talks in Baku, which concluded Tuesday, were aimed to “coordinate transportation issues that will facilitate the shipment of supplies to US, NATO and partner military forces operating in Afghanistan” through the Caucasus region, the embassy said in a statement.

It noted that the talks focused on “non-lethal supplies” and that “no military personnel are involved in the actual transportation of supplies through the Caucasus.”

The Asia Times recently summarized why we have been opposed to supply routes that go through and/or rely on Russia.

Moscow has every reason to encourage NATO to become more and more dependent on the northern corridor … a Russia-Iran understanding over the Afghan transit routes enables Moscow to exploit NATO’s dependence on the northern corridor, which, in turn, compels the alliance to be sensitive about Russia’s security interests and concerns and at the same time paves the way for Russia to play a bigger role in the stabilization of Afghanistan, which of course suits Iran.

Nothing good comes from the logistical transit routes through Russia.  To be clear, we had recommended approximately two months ago that the U.S. work harder on the Caucasus route, which is as follows.  First, supplies (including military supplies) would be shipped through the Mediterranean Sea through the Bosporus Strait in Turkey.  And from there into the Black Sea.  From the Black Sea the supplies would go through Georgia to neighboring Azerbaijan.

From here the supplies would transit across the Caspian Sea to Turkmenistan, and from there South to Afghanistan.  A larger regional map gives a better idea of the general flow path.

The problems are numerous, including the fact that the supplies would be unloaded in Georgia to transit by rail car or road, unloaded from rail or truck to transit again by sea, and finally loaded aboard rail cars or trucks again (after passage across the Caspian Sea) in Turkmenistan to make passage to Afghanistan.

But removal of the logistical lines from Russian control places Iran, the missile shield, and NATO membership for Georgia and the Ukraine back on the table while we still supply our troops in Afghanistan with ordnance and supplies.  The U.S. is not “over a barrel,” so to speak.  And the DoD and State Department should keep reading The Captain’s Journal.

Category: Logistics

  • armchairanalyst

    Captain,

    As you know I have been following your comments on Afghan logistics and NATO supply routes fairly closely. I agree that routes that do not rely on Russia or Pakistan are highly desirable at this point. I agree that greater logistical cooperation with India would be desirable though remains highly unlikely (certainly not possible to actually use Indian territory to transport supplies. They did however build the Zaranj-Delaram spur linking the ring road to Chabahar).

    Regarding the FSU/CAR route and avoiding Russia I am also in agreement. I also look favorably on a route through Turkmenistan–in theory. However, there has been very little serious discussion of a Turkmenistan route. Why do you suppose this is?

    If we are willing to deal with the Karimov one would think that it is not a question of human rights or a distaste for the leadership in Ashgabat. This leaves essentially two options as I see it: One they are just totally paranoid and reclusive and wary of getting involved in “the game.” The other is that there just isn’t sufficient infrastructure.

    I looked into the later and it is indeed problematic. The roads are of dubious quality and are not particularly direct. You could unload at Krasnovodsk and then presumably use the main highway through Ashgabat to Merv. From their you would have to either go south to Herat or divert north to Chardzhou across to Uzbekistan and then South to Termez and across to Mazar. And of course once you get to either Herat or Mazar you still have to get to Kabul. Surely this task is not impossible but like all the proposed routes, it poses many difficulties.

    Mostly I have just been puzzled by the absence of a detailed and realistic discussion regarding the possibility of Turkmenistan route and I am hoping that you or your readers can set the record straight or at least shed more light on why the discussion thus far has revolved around the Baltic-Russia-Kazakhstan-Uzbekistan route? What is stopping us form cutting Russia out of the equation? is it political or logistical?

  • subbob

    I posted a reference to this article as a comment to “Closing of Manas Air Base Presents Threat to Coalition Supply Lines” on the discussion blogs at Fort Leavenworth’s Combined Arms Center.
    REF: http://usacac.leavenworth.army.mil/BLOG/blogs/djimo/archive/2009/03/14/2040.aspx

    In that blog article, Brian Voorhees posed the following questions:

    What is the impact of these developments?

    Do we have alternative LOC’s?

    Why did the Kyrgyz government close the base?

    Since you have been following and analyzing the logistical situation, I’d be interested in your responses to those questions on that blog.

  • http://www.captainsjournal.com/ Herschel Smith

    Thanks to both of you for the comments. A followup article is coming soon based on these comments.


You are currently reading "Caucasus Talks on Logistical Transit Routes for Afghanistan", entry #2407 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Afghanistan,Azerbaijan,Logistics,Russia and was published March 11th, 2009 by Herschel Smith.

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