Convoy attacks and Afghan supply lines

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_41905244_ap416womantruck_2 (The picture is from Iraq)

"In one of the largest and most brazen attacks of its kind, suspected Taliban insurgents with heavy weapons attacked two truck stops in northwest Pakistan on Sunday, destroying more than 150 vehicles carrying supplies bound for U.S.-led troops in Afghanistan.

The predawn attack on the outskirts of the city of Peshawar left the grounds of the truck terminals littered with the burned-out shells of Humvees and other military vehicles being transported by private truckers. At least one guard was reported killed."  LA Times

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"Nato is negotiating with Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to allow supplies for Nato forces, including fuel, to cross borders into Afghanistan from the north. The deal, which officials said was close to being agreed, follows an agreement with Moscow this year allowing Nato supplies to be transported by rail or road through Russia.

The deal could allow more fuel for Nato forces to be transported from refineries in Baku, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan. Most of the 75m gallons of fuel estimated to be used by Nato forces annually in Afghanistan comes from refineries in Pakistan.

Germany and Spain, whose troops are based in more peaceful northern Afghanistan, have negotiated separate bilateral air transport agreements with Russia.

Nato officials said yesterday that the organization is negotiating with Ukraine and Belarus for a land route which, though long, would avoid Pakistan and the pirates of the Gulf of Aden."  Guardian

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The long standing vulnerability of coalition forces in Iraq to "line of communication" (LOC) interdiction on the roads from Kuwait to central Iraq was never exploited to its potential by the inhabitants of the Shia south of Iraq.  Conflicted Shia politics, and Iranian unwillingness to bring on that great a crisis were largely responsible for the avoidance of what might have been a catastrophic situation.

There do not seem to be similar inhibitions with regard to LOCs leading to Afghanistan.  Political and business relationships in Pakistan are entwined in complex patterns that are exacerbating the threat to land based LOCs that extend from Karachi to Kabul through the FATA and from Karachi to Kandahar through Baluchistan.

The NATO powers are wisely seeking alternative routes through Russia and the central Asian states. 

This is a good idea but I am sure that everyone involved understands that these new LOCs will give the hosting countries a great deal of leverage.  pl

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/dec/09/afghanistan-nato-supply-routes

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-pakistan8-2008dec08,0,2335333.story

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23 Responses to Convoy attacks and Afghan supply lines

  1. JohnH says:

    “These new LOCs will give the hosting countries a great deal of leverage.”
    The deal must warm Putin’s cockles. It makes you wonder about the quid pro quo involved.

  2. rjh says:

    The Kyber pass has rarely been wide open. Foreign control has never been welcome. This has held true back to the Great Game and before. The locals have always fought for control. On a more positive note, the locals have generally viewed the pass as a revenue source to be exploited, not a strategic weapon.
    So keeping the pass itself open is something that can be worked out. Keeping Pakistan open is a different matter.

  3. Be interesting to see in general an analysis of lifelines, oil, gas, food, other basics to Afghanistan. I assume that Pakistan and Afghanistant have the closest to integrated civil economies. But an analysis would be interesting? We were lucky in Viet Nam, we knew how to move goods and supplies by sea and protect seaports. I guess we should just confine or war efforts to the littorial reaches. (may be an incorrect us of that term but hey best I can do).

  4. b says:

    If NATO negotiates new routes, will those be able to be used by non-NATO US-forces?
    Anyway, I am sure Russia and its associates will make sure that they get a good rent out of this.
    It will make the Afghanistan expedition much more costly than the one in Iraq.

  5. praxis says:

    Colonel,
    Although I agree with your description, I respectfully disagree with your conclusion. Of course, nobody is paying attention to the fact that Russia and the local Central Asian potentats will make us pay, probably dearly, our disregard for LOC protection!! Nobody is paying attention now, because all eyes are on the inadequacies of the current lines running through Pakistan to Afghanistan. Let’s find a solution first, we’ll study the potential problems when they arise. Isn’t that how we operate these days??
    Cordially,

  6. Mad Dogs says:

    Pat wrote: “This is a good idea but I am sure that everyone involved understands that these new LOCs will give the hosting countries a great deal of leverage.”
    And it may also provide the impetus to add Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to the jihadis’ Op-Area as these nation-states themselves are home to an increasingly restive and volatile Islamic-majority population.
    Out of the frying pan into the fire, so to speak.

  7. Patrick Lang says:

    pbrownlee
    The picture was taken by John Duke Anthony. That is the only connection to a “Duke” that I know of. pl

  8. jonst says:

    Quiet overtures should be made by Obama to Iran re potential supply lines. The Taliban is there enemy too. Common ground just might be found here. In any event…it should be explored. Especially, as the price of oil begins to drop, and that causes problems for Iran’s economy.

  9. Jose says:

    Just curious why this has not happened before, because logistics are always an easy and soft target.
    So it means the ISI has finally turned on us?

  10. J says:

    Colonel,
    correct me if i’m wrong, but russia could use the nato resupply as a barter against the dumber-n-dirt bush-cheney missile shield. — if nato keeps the missile shield, no resupply to afghanistan. — do away with the missile shield, then all assistance in resupply for nato operations in afghanistan.
    oui? no?

  11. bstr says:

    Dear Sir, Any recommended reading on the complex of business and politics in Pakistan and the complicated relationship between Afghanistan aand Pakistan?

  12. Patrick Lang says:

    All
    BSTR has appealed for resources concerning Pak political and business relationships. Please offer them up. pl

  13. Charles I says:

    Well, perhaps the Russians will just extort us, and not attack our troops and material. Have to get a lot of that stuff down near the Durrand Line in any event, that’s the long way around. I assume the logistical pull of such areorientation would draw some forces from Pakistan and Afghanistan towards to the Central Aisian Republics. I bet its just as corrupt an evirons as the other. And if this new LOC can be established, what does it change on the ground in Afghanistan? Or Pakistan? Answer: Big Celebrations: US Driven Out, Crusaders sent Packing!
    Mad Dogs, re: “And it may also provide the impetus to add Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to the jihadis’ Op-Area as these nation-states themselves are home to an increasingly restive and volatile Islamic-majority population.”
    Ahmed Rashid’s 2000 book “Taliban : militant Islam, oil, and fundamentalism in Central Asia” is a fantastic, very detailed, prescient little book about the history and politics of these resource rich gateways to the south, typified at their juncture in the strategic Fergana Valley. A must read really, when considering the superimposition of a Nato/US LOC upon the area. Just the thought of it brings the metaphor of honey to whole new swarms of bees on a new front to mind.

  14. Sidney O. Smith III says:

    Re: Pakistan and Afghanistan:
    Perhaps outdated now but Rashid’s book on the Taliban was fantastic, imo.
    http://tinyurl.com/65umtj

  15. Duncan Kinder says:

    Nato officials said yesterday that the organization is negotiating with Ukraine and Belarus for a land route which, though long, would avoid Pakistan and the pirates of the Gulf of Aden.” Guardian

    Let me get this straight. The Somali pirates threaten not only civilian shipping but also NATO supply lines in the Gulf of Aden?

  16. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    Logistics aside, what precisely is the mission, if any? Social engineering…of what-whom?

  17. Cato says:

    I think we should cut our losses in Afghanistan and get out. This is yet another debacle engineered by the Bush administration.

  18. David Habakkuk says:

    Clifford Kiracofe,
    Absolutely. What I simply cannot see is any clear definition of attainable objectives for the Afghan mission. The underlying assumption still seems to be that because it is highly undesirable to have Afghanistan and the tribal borderlands as havens for Sunni jihadists, there must be a way which we can totally eliminate any possibility of this happening, without incurring costs which make the game not worth the candle: like destabilising Pakistan.
    Once again we see an implicit assumption of omnipotence which makes any serious strategic thinking difficult.
    JohnH,
    Given the limited nature of what one can realistically expect to achieve in Afghanistan, it would seem imperative to try to build on the strong common interest that most of the regional players have in combating Sunni jihadists. On this point, American interests are congruent with those of Russia, as they are with those of Iran.
    But the obvious other side of the coin for the Russians is that they will not want to do anything which will facilitate the clear U.S. objective of minimising their influence in the post-Soviet space.
    For both Russia and the U.S., accordingly, this becomes a matter of balancing relative priorities. However, even if American policymakers think that they have vital interests in the pursuit of Palmerstonian geopolitics, at the moment they are going up about it in a particularly dumb way.
    Making formalised security commitments to the Ukraine and Georgia, by incorporating these in NATO, is at once unnecessary and dangerous.
    The anticipation of these was a major factor precipitating the war in Georgia. As for the Ukraine — exasperation at the sheer recklessness of U.S. policy recently drove the former Canadian government analyst of Russian affairs Patrick Armstrong to remark that: ‘I cannot think of any issue better calculated to split Ukraine than NATO membership — so much so that one wonders whether Washington wants to break up the country.’
    (The regular SITREP on Russia Armstrong posts at http://www.russiaotherpointsofview.com/ are an invaluable source of information one does not find in the MSM, as are the posts by Dr Gordon Hahn on the same site.)
    As to missile defences in Poland and the Czech republic, these are seen in Moscow as directed at them, and the thin end of a wedge that over time could come to jeopardise their nuclear deterrent.
    It is actually unlikely that they can do this. And what is clearly impossible is to combine such policies with policies which attempt to capitalise on the very evident common interest of the U.S. and Russia in combating further nuclear proliferation and minimising any chances of terrorists getting hold of nuclear weapons.
    So there are two obvious quid pro quos which Obama could offer, without any sacrifice of U.S. interests at all.

  19. John Howley says:

    If you think LOC in Afghanistan are a problem now, just wait until we double US combat troops.

  20. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    David Habakkuk,
    Inside the Beltway there are a number of Afghanistan projects at the think tanks. A “buzz” is building…to what end and effect who knows?
    This is an influential one from the Center for the Study of the Presidency. You will note General Jones and Amb. Pickering co-chair:
    http://www.thepresidency.org/Leadership/afghan.html
    I will be out that way in the general neighborhood over the holidays and hope to get a flavor of what some observers think about the situation and US policy and…

  21. Arun says:

    Where do the Taliban fighting the NATO forces in Afghanistan get their arms and ammunition from? Presumably in order to take the offensive, as they seem to have, they must have sufficient supplies. Why is it difficult to interdict Taliban supply lines? They are surrounded on all sides by hostile territories (supposedly including Pakistan).
    Iran is likely not supplying the Taliban. The northern areas of Afghanistan were anti-Taliban and held out even until the US invasion.
    The difficulty of controlling the mountainous territory of FATA, NWFP is certainly there. But unless there is manufacturing capability there (which I doubt), the arms have to be passing through the infinitely more controllable plains of Punjab.
    If there are large caches of Soviet arms around from the 1980s, then why aren’t these being destroyed (instead of shooting at Afghan wedding parties)?

  22. Arun says:

    Any commentary on the Times of London story that NATO is (unwittingly?) paying the Taliban protection money?
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article5327683.ece
    “The Times has learnt that it is in the outsourcing of convoys that payoffs amounting to millions of pounds, including money from British taxpayers, are given to the Taleban.
    The controversial payments were confirmed by several fuel importers, trucking and security company owners. None wanted to be identified because of the risk to their business and their lives. “We estimate that approximately 25 per cent of the money we pay for security to get the fuel in goes into the pockets of the Taleban,” said one fuel importer.
    Another boss, whose company is subcontracted to supply to Western military bases, said that as much as a quarter of the value of a lorry’s cargo went in paying Taleban commanders.”
    — Just how does NATO expect to accomplish anything in Afghanistan?
    Second question – is there a similar payoff going on in Iraq?

  23. Arun says:

    Drivers halt Afghan supply route
    Lorry drivers in north-west Pakistan say they will no longer deliver supplies to Nato and US-led forces in Afghanistan due to worsening security.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7783753.stm

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