Study-NATO Supply Stoppage Economic And Political Cost For US
by editor | January 29, 2012 5:46 am
Pakistan’s Border Closures Cost US Millions Monthly
Something you won’t hear being discussed on the news or by pundits just about anywhere is what it is currently costing the United States and NATO Forces to move much needed war supplies to our troops in Afghanistan.
In late November 2011, Pakistan shut down two key military border crossings in retaliation to a U.S. airstrike that killed two dozen Pakistani soldiers. Pakistan is also still pretty ticked off at us over the successful raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound that resulted not only in his death, but the massive embarrassment of Pakistani leaders who continue to deny they had knowledge that the Al Qaeda mastermind was living in luxury less than a mile from one of their primary military installations.
Islamabad’s decision to shut down those two key Pakistan border crossings have resulted in the U.S and NATO using alternate routes to get critical supplies, including fuel and food to our troops serving on the front lines. Approximately 85% of all fuel and more than 30% of all other supplies are now being rerouted through a longer and much more costly northern route.
The northern route connects Baltic and Caspian Sea ports with Afghanistan through Russia, Central Asia and the Caucuses. A combination of truck, rail and sea assets are all being utilized to transport the fuel and other critical supplies needed by our troops.
In an article published by the Associated Press on January 19, 2012, the Pentagon revealed new figures showing that it is now costing approximately $104 million dollars per month to send supplies through the alternate northern route. Considering it cost us approximately $17 million prior to the closures, that is an increase cost of $87 million dollars per month.
Since Islamabad has given no indication of if or when it may re-open those key crossings, U.S. officials said the increased costs are likely to continue for some time. U.S. – Pakistan tensions remain high and Pakistan has not offered to restore the prior transport arrangement. Officials from the two countries are currently not in any form of negotiations to resolve the issue.
Leaders in Pakistan have long complained about the U.S. drone strikes into their country. Although the strikes are targeting militants hiding along the Pakistan border that repeatedly launch attacks against NATO troops in Afghanistan, on November 26 one such drone strike hit two Pakistani border posts.
The United States blamed the errant airstrike on communication and coordination errors on both sides and have expressed regret but offered no apologies for the incident. The U.S. insists Pakistan fired first. Pakistan denies the allegation and calls it an unprovoked attack on its country.
Pakistan has also ordered the U.S. to vacate Shamsi Air Base, which the U.S. was using to launch drone strikes at the Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants.
Needless to say the stand-off is not good for Pakistan – U.S. relations, which have been on shaky ground for quite some time. Washington sees the Pakistani/U.S partnership as a key piece of overall stability in the region. Failure to reinstate relations between our two countries could cause major problems for our military. Insurgents routinely use Pakistan as a sanctuary, especially along the border with Afghanistan. If Pakistan considers it a provoked attack every time the CIA targets, or our military kills insurgents, jihadists, the Taliban or Al Qaeda members who are hiding there, it could have a significant impact on the war in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan is a land locked country. The closures of the Pakistani supply routes have had a significantly negative impact on the Afghani people. Thousands of trucks and other vehicles are stranded on the Pakistan side of the border, unable to move much needed food, clothing, supplies and other goods to the civilian population in Afghanistan. Afghan authorities have asked Pakistani authorities to allow their supplies through. Pakistan is considering the request. Officials there say they are sorting through the thousands of vehicles to determine which ones might be carrying supplies to the Afghanistan people.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has not spoken to Pakistani leaders since the November incident and only last week, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) spoke to his Pakistani counterpart by phone last week for the first time since December.
American has given Pakistan well over $20 Billion dollars in civilian and military aid since September 11, 2001. Maybe if the money valve closed as suddenly as the supply routes did – negotiations would just as suddenly resume.
NATO is heavily dependent on the Northern Distribution Network for its forces in Afghanistan. After closing of route through Pakistan as a result of NATO attack on Pakistani border post with Afghanistan US is in search of a route which runs through former Soviet states.
The main alternate route runs from Russia down through Central Asia, Uzbekistan. In summer 2011, the United States struck a series of deals with Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to expand the use of this route . By the end of the year, this route was carrying approximately 75 percent of ground cargo (and 40 percent of all cargo) into Afghanistan. After the November blocking of route through Pakistan, it became life line for NATO operations in Afghanistan, with plans to heavily increase supplies by mid-2012. However the political issues have now started over taking the economic cost issues.
Uzbekistan realize that it has a space to play in this environment and increase its military muscles through US support. Where as on other end Russia sees Uzbekistan as the focal point of Central Asia and knows it cannot comfortably control the region until it has sufficient influence in Uzbekistan. Washington’s relationship with Uzbekistan has long been controversial on issues of human rights violations, during Andijan uprising in 2005.
The United States had assumed that lifting sanctions on military supplies to Uzbekistan was a good way to improve relations, but Tashkent wants it to be turned into military gains. According to sources, in October the Uzbek government hinted at closing supply route, due to transit charges and demanded military aid and weapons in return to transit facilities. Such a venture would certainly have implications for US – Russian future relations. This leaves a mathematical equation of accumulated political and economic losses for US to bear as it falls off the route through Pakistan.