Logistical Challenges for Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
8 years ago

From The New York Times:

So many convoys loaded with American supplies came under insurgent attack in Pakistan last year that the United States military now tags each truck with a GPS device and keeps 24-hour watch by video feed at a military base in the United States. Last year the Taliban blew up a bridge near the pass, temporarily suspending the convoys.

“Hannibal trying to move over the Alps had a tremendous logistics burden, but it was nothing like the complexity we are dealing with now,” said Lt. Gen. William G. Webster, the commander of the United States Third Army, using one of the extravagant historical parallels that commanders have deployed for the occasion. He spoke at a military base in the Kuwaiti desert before a vast sandscape upon which were armored trucks that had been driven out of Iraq and were waiting to be junked, sent home or taken on to Kabul, Afghanistan.

The general is not moving elephants, but the scale and intricacy of the operation are staggering. The military says there are 3.1 million pieces of equipment in Iraq, from tanks to coffee makers, two-thirds of which are to leave the country. Of that, about half will go on to Afghanistan, where there are already severe strains on the system.

As I have pointed out an untold number of times, the standard route for supplies goes through the Pakistani port city of Karachi and ultimately through the Khyber pass and Torkham Crossing (a small amount, i.e., ten percent, goes through Chaman to the Kandahar AO), and is subject to attacks on our lines of logistics.  But there is another experimental route.


This is close to what I have recommended in It’s Time to Engage the Caucasus, except that the lines run through Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan rather than across the Caspian Sea through Turkmenistan (the reason isn’t clear, perhaps because of the human rights violations of the present regime in Turkmenistan and the unsavory characters with whom we would be dealing).  Dealing with unsavory characters is a part of the process in this region of the world, and we should be engaging all of the Caucasus region, including Turkmenistan.  Our preening moral outrage should be saved for the radical Mullahs in Iran and the way they treat their citizens.

Daniel Foster writing at NRO’s Corner updates us with this:

A Lt. Colonel in the Air Force e-mails me with this (unclassified) tidbit on the effect of the Kyrgyz unrest on allied operations inside Afghanistan:

For the last few months we have been flying MATV’s (the new, tougher MRAPs) into Manas AB, Kyrgyzstan via commercial 747’s and transloading them onto C-17’s for delivery into Afghanistan (mainly Kandahar, Bagram and Camp Bastion).

Due to ‘civic unrest’ Manas AB is now temporarily shut down to flying ops. To say this puts a crimp in the ‘logistics hose’ is an understatement. If the new gov’t can’t be convinced to play ball re: Manas we will be ‘challenged’ to say the least. . . .[I]t is also a significant mil passenger hub . . . .

We have put significant effort into the procurement of rights at Manas Air Base; the unrest in the region is problematic for logistics, and may go to prove that the choice to place such effort on Manas was wrong-headed.


Kyrgyzstan is still significantly to the East of Afghanistan, and landlocked and beholden to some extent to the good will of Russia.  The current administration’s fear of truly engaging Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkmenistan (this is the Russian “near-abroad”, and Russia has basing rights in Armenia) has prevented the full engagement of the region and the creation of more efficient and effective lines of logistics, and rights to additional air bases that could supply the campaign in Afghanistan.  But we’re giving up on even more than that.  We are neglecting to engage in very real force projection in this region of the world, and making sad events like another Russian invasion of Georgia more likely.


Progress on Logistics Through Georgia?

Afghanistan Logistics: It Isn’t Too Late to do the Right Thing

Is it logistically possible to deploy more troops to Afghanistan?

The Logistical Cost of Being Deployed

Marines, Beasts and Water

More Attacks on Logistics Routes

Attack on Logistics Near Chaman

It’s Time to Engage the Caucasus

Taliban and al Qaeda Strategy in Pakistan and Afghanistan (in which I predicted the strategy of attacking lines of logistics through the Khyber Pass in March of 2008 – CENTCOM wasn’t listening).

Trackbacks & Pingbacks


  1. On April 9, 2010 at 1:00 pm, Warbucks said:

    “Our preening moral outrage”…. I like the poetic sound of your choice of words.

    I know nothing of the Caucasus other than it seems to be the region of the world where the old meets the new. “The Master of Lucid Dreams,” by Dr. Olga Kharitidi, M.D., 2001 offers insight on forces that drive its people.

    It seems to me that we have not yet seen the full extent of “our preening moral outrage” that will flow into the streets of America until or if we “Engage the Caucasus.” I would instead predict that an very unsettling sense of change of scope of war will follow such an engagement just as we start the election cycles of 2011 and it therefore will not happen unless we are fulling invited in by regional powers in an unmistakable alliance of forces.

  2. On April 11, 2010 at 1:20 pm, Warbucks said:

    Their may be many ways for us to confront the future; expanding this war, tweaking it for perfection of execution, while a given to the duty of leadership, may win the battle and lose the war.

    Most of us are restricted in our networks of life and are from a materialistic sense, committed to life within a 100-mile radius of our current location. With few exceptions we will live out our lives come hell or high water within a three day walk of where we live. But we are not committed or restricted to any radius (any radius of time and space) whatsoever, spiritually. While you may feel this is a cop-out and fuzzy comment being offered on a Sunday morning, I mean it literally and I know of few mainstream churches that would open your eyes to its content. Part of my end-of-life work’s passion has been to offer to others how to awaken to the greater reality.

    We each have free will to choose which path we pursue. It does not matter perhaps what attitude you carry into spiritual work, what matters is how you respond to what you discover along your path. Some of us enter our spiritual path with a sense of vengeance in a warrior’s attitude, to amazingly and eventually discover love…nothing short of extacy. That was my entry…. a warriors path, with a sense of vengeance … only to quickly discover on a personal level the controlling energy of this universe seems to be at a frequency of love, and that this universe is a state of consciousness which we can learn to tap.

    What most of us do not realize, and I could not figure out for 65 years, is that the ancient wisdoms of the ancient sages are true. More and more of us are coming to new realizations of reality that alter our sense of “enemy” and alter our sense of the “other” and thus open us to alternative pathways to peace.

    For those warriors (those stalwarts of liberty) open to the motto : be fearless, be loving, be humble, seek truth, here are two postings that open you to entire other realities: (1) http://www.peaceandconflictresolution.org and (2) sub-quantum physics which changes everything at


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You are currently reading "Logistical Challenges for Afghanistan", entry #4810 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Afghanistan,Caucasus,Logistics and was published April 8th, 2010 by Herschel Smith.

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