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NATO to lose its supply route through Pakistan?

Posted by Newshoggers.com on December 4th, 2011

From our partners at Newshoggers.com

By BJ Bjornson

The question mark is deliberate as I have not yet seen any confirmation of this guest post by John Daly at Zero Hedge, but the risk of just such an action has been discussed before here and elsewhere for quite some time.

NATO recently literally shot itself in the foot, imperiling the resupply of International Assistance Forces (ISAF) in Afghanistan by shooting up two Pakistani border posts in a “hot pursuit’ raid.

Given that roughly 100 fuel tanker trucks along with 200 other trucks loaded with NATO supplies cross into Afghanistan each day from Pakistan, Pakistan’s closure of the border has ominous long-term consequences for the logistical resupply of ISAF forces, even as Pentagon officials downplay the issue and scramble for alternative resupply routes.

. . .

The major issue at stake here for ISAF and U.S. forces is fuel, all of which must be brought in from abroad at high cost. In October 2009 Pentagon officials testified before the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee that the "Fully Burdened Cost of Fuel" (FBCF) translates to about $400 per gallon by the time it arrives at a remote Forward Operating Base (FOB) in Afghanistan. Last year, the FBCF reached $800 in some FOBs following supply route bombings in Pakistan, while others have claimed the FBCF may be as high as $1,000 per gallon in some remote locations. For many remote locations, fuel supplies can only be provided by air – one of the most expensive ways being in helicopter fuel bladders.

The majority of U.S. tonnage transported into Afghanistan is fuel – 70 percent, according to Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Alan Haggerty. The Marines' calculate that 39 percent of their tonnage is fuel, and 90 percent is either fuel or water.

Lovely to see how your tax dollars are being spent, isn’t it? Do read the entire post as it provides an excellent summary of the logistical situation the US and ISAF face in Afghanistan, including a description of the main backup route, the Northern Distribution Network (NDN) starting at the Baltic Sea in Latvia and transiting through Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

Temporary suspensions have happened before and this could be more of the same with louder rhetoric, but even a temporary disruption in the supply line can cause issues. Part of the reason for setting up the whole NDN network was to try and limit the US and NATO’s reliance on a single supply line which was already dangerous and suffering disruptions due to insurgent attacks, as well as worsening relations with Pakistan. Still, looking at a map will tell you that finding a way to resupply troops in Afghanistan without going through Pakistan is going to be a major headache and require friendly relations with even more nations that the US hasn’t always been on side with.

Think for a minute about how the US and NATO would have handled the Russian war with Georgia had they been even as dependent as they are now on Russia’s good graces to get supplies to their troops in Afghanistan in 2008? Not that they did much anyway, but I’m betting even the rhetoric would have been scaled back a fair bit.

In any case, I think the situation with Pakistan, and therefore with the American and supporting international presence in Afghanistan is getting more tenuous. Read this story covering the situation in Al Jazeera. The facts are no different than what we already know, but the tone of the article reads like the measured response to a great insult and a wounded pride. Such feeling aren’t papered over easily, and they’ve been growing for years thanks to the drone strikes and other US actions in the region.

Personal phone calls from the White House aren’t going to be enough. At some point, things are going to snap if the overall situation doesn’t change soon.

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