The Perceptors group had an in house discussion in after math of the Chicago Summit where NATO countries got together to discuss future strategy on Afghanistan. Mainly two issues were on top in agenda ‘the exit of NATO force and establishment of Afghan National Army support mechanism’ and ‘Reopening of NATO supply through Pakistan’. The group was more focused on Pakistan and observed media trend of high lighting and twisting facts to focus on points which show that Pakistan lack the capacity to take decision on opening of NATO supply route despite requests from the entire world community. The media strongly reacted to a perceived Pakistan’s demand of increasing per Truck tariff demand from 250 dollars to 5000 dollars. The bleak picture of Pakistan’s economy and role of its Army in delay of decision on NATO supply also formed part of media campaign. However, questions like American agency’s role in re- inviting mistrust between America and Pakistan which were managed in first half of the decade through all out cooperation in War On Terror and the loss to American and west’s value system, economy and liberty due to their agency seems to be intentionally relegated. Replacement of its ambassadors in both Pakistan and Afghanistan is an indicator of failure of diplomacy and taking over by American agency and army . More than economics it is the political issue between the two routes which is seldom discussed in media.
Most of the members in perceptors are of the view that for Pakistan though economics is important but more vital is future stability of the region. Fortunately, the geography and timings have provided this leverage to Pakistan where it can impress its interests on the other side. Historically, Pakistan and US have been allies when India was in Russian bloc. Despite ups and downs the relationship did progress. It can still progress if future road map is clear and is a win win ending for both. It is not only in Pakistan’s interest to remove mistrust but more so in superpower’s own present interest and future design to facilitate opening of NATO supply route through Pakistan .
This study intends bringing out the facts to enhance understanding of problem and the other side of the picture and point out difficulties in case the NATO supply route is not opened through Pakistan, the group is of the opinion this will result in a serious blow to superpower and its allies economic and political future.
Some points of concern to Pakistan which came under discussion with the group as under:
- Will opening of the route through Pakistan kill all the problems like CSF fund, money promised in KLL and the aids which was frozen not because of blockade of supply resulting in mistrust?
- Will Pak get its due share in Afghanistan settlement for which it sacrificed and suffered through out the last decade?
- What will be the procedure to ensure lethal arms are not transported if route opens?
Incident Leading to Blockade of NATO Route through Pakistan
On 26 November 2011, two NATO Apache helicopters along with AC-130 gunship and two F-15E Eagle fighter jets entered up to 2.5 kilometres inside Pakistani border area of Salala in the Baizai subdivision of Mohmand Agency, FATA at 2 a.m. local time, and opened fire at two border patrol check-posts, killing up to 26 Pakistani soldiers. The two Pakistan Army check-posts were codenamed “Boulder” and “Volcano” respectively. The attack resulted in a deterioration of relations between Pakistan and the United States. The Pakistani public reacted with protests all over the country and the government took measures adversely affecting the US exit strategic from Afghanistan including the evacuation of Shamsi Airfield and closure of the NATO supply line.
Map showing NATO supply routes through Pakistan.
Description of NATO Supply Route through Pakistan
PAKGLOC, or Pakistan Ground Lines of Communication are two routes from Pakistan to Afghanistan (both were closed in November 2011). Both routes start in Karachi, Pakistan’s principal port, on the Arabian Sea. From there, one route crosses the Khyber Pass, enters Afghanistan at Torkham, and terminates at Kabul, supplying northern Afghanistan. This route is approximately 1,000 miles long. The other passes through Balochistan Province, crosses the border at Chaman, and ends at Kandahar, in the south of Afghanistan.
As recently as 2009, the U.S. military moved 90 percent of its surface cargo through Pakistan, arriving by ship at the port in Karachi and then snaking through mountain passes, deserts and remote tribal areas before crossing the border into Afghanistan. The Pakistan supply lines are served entirely by contractors instead of U.S. military convoys.
NATO used these routes to transport fuel and other supplies, but not for weapons. The Pakistan routes, until their closure, provided most of the fuel for NATO efforts in Afghanistan. In 2007, the military was burning 575,000 gallons of fuel per day, and 80% of this fuel came from Pakistani refineries. The fuel storage capacity for forces at Bagram and Kabul air bases was less than 3 million gallons, making NATO efforts highly dependent on the Pakistani supply lines.
Financial Expenditures on PAKGLOC
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.
Pakistan’s government is seeking a reimbursement of $2.6 billion from the U.S., but has not received any Coalition Support Funds for the past 18 months.
In the backdrop of extensive spending in Afghanistan, the United States is not prepared to reimburse Pakistan for even what we have suffered, both as damage to the transit route infrastructure and the colossal collateral damage to life and property as fallout of the Afghan imbroglio, as agreed by the Coalition Support Fund.
Reopening the route could be key to plans by NATO forces to end their combat mission in Afghanistan by the end of 2014, a goal that would require the US and other countries to move equipment out of Afghanistan to Pakistani ports.
The communication ministry has proposed charging Nato forces $1,000 per container to offset the Rs100 billion in damages caused to the road infrastructure in the past 10 years, said a top government functionary.
“According to our conservative assessment, the Nato containers caused Rs100 billion in damages to the road infrastructure and have not paid a penny in return,” said Communications Secretary Anwar Ahmad Khan while briefing the Public Accounts Committee on Tuesday.
The statement comes at a time when Pakistan and United States are negotiating new conditions for reopening the ground lines of communication (GLOC), the official name for the Nato supply routes through Pakistan. US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has declined to accept Pakistan’s demand of $5,000 per container, inclusive of all charges.
Political Implications for Pakistan on reopening of NATO Supply
Map showing NDN route
Description of NATO Supply Routes through Central Asia
- The routes known as Northern Distribution Network (NDN) contains several different routes. The most commonly used route, though also one of the longest, starts at the port of Riga, Latvia on the Baltic Sea, and continues for 3,212 miles (5,169 km) by train southwards through Russia, using railroads built by Russia in the 1980s for the Soviet war in Afghanistan. The supplies then pass through Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan before reaching Afghanistan’s northern border at Termez. To get to the south of the country, the supplies must be loaded onto trucks and transported through the mountainous Hindu Kush by means of the Salang Tunnel. The Salang Tunnel, which is the main connection between northern and southern Afghanistan, is 1.5 miles long and situated at an altitude of 11,100 feet. It is prone to avalanches and quite dangerous.
- Another, more southern route starts at Ponti, Georgia on the Black Sea and continues to Baku, Azerbaijan where the goods are transferred to barges and ferried across the Caspian Sea. Supplies land in Turkmenistan and then move by rail through Uzbekistan before arriving at the Afghan border. In 2010, this route carried one third of the NDN’s traffic.
- A third route, created in order to avoid going through the often volatile country of Uzbekistan, goes from Khazakstan to Kyrgyzstan and then through Tajikistan before reaching Termez.
Financial Expenditures on NDN
Officials have disclosed that the actual cost-per-container figure for NDN cargo has been calculated to be $17,500, compared with an approximately $7,200 for cargo passed through Pakistan ground routes. It takes 60 days to reach the desitnation .The difference in costs clearly manifests that without mending fences with Pakistan, US and NATO cannot sustain its forces in the war ravaged region of Afghanistan for long.
Source: Carbonated Tv
Political Implications of NDN
By shifting the burden to Central Asia, however, the U.S. military has become increasingly reliant on authoritarian countries, prompting criticism from human rights groups that the Obama administration is cozying up to dictators.
For instance, more than one-third of the northern-route cargo passes through tiny Azerbaijan, a country saddled by “pervasive corruption,” according to the State Department’s annual human rights report. U.S. defense officials also say the northern supply lines would not be possible without the cooperation of Russia. One new route runs through Siberia.
The biggest potential choke point, however, lies in Uzbekistan, a former Soviet republic that borders northern Afghanistan. It previously had kicked the U.S. military out of the country after Washington complained about the killing of hundreds of protesters in 2005.
But as the United States has deepened its involvement in Afghanistan, relations with Uzbekistan have warmed up again. Today, more than 80 percent of supplies shipped along the Northern Distribution Network pass through the country.
Importance of NATO Supply Route through Pakistan
Economic and Technical Factor
Russia and Central Asia
|Today, almost 40 percent of surface cargo arrives in Afghanistan from the north, along a patchwork of Central Asian rail and road routes that the Pentagon calls the Northern Distribution Network. Military planners said they are pushing to raise the northern network’s share to as much as 75 percent by the end of this year.One winding truck route begins at a U.S. Army depot at Germersheim, Germany, and ends, an average of 60 days later, at Bagram air base in Afghanistan. As with the Pakistan routes, the deliveries are all made by contractors. In November 2009, U.S. embassy officials in Tashkent, the Uzbek capital, were warned by a confidential source that the tracks were brittle and at risk of fracturing if trains carried more than half their usual loads. On top of that, the Soviet-era locomotives carrying U.S. cargo were not designed to cross steep mountains; engineers had to apply the brakes almost constantly as they moved downhill. “By the time the trains have descended from the mountains, the wheels are glowing red hot,” the embassy reported in a diplomatic cable. The source, an engineer, said he was “appalled by how long it takes to transport anything by rail in Uzbekistan” and that he refused to take the train for fear of a crash. The cable, titled “Uzbek Rail: Red Hot Wheels to Afghanistan” and obtained by the anti-secrecy Web site WikiLeaks, concluded that “a train wreck is possible in the literal sense.”||As recently as 2009, the U.S. military moved 90 percent of its surface cargo through Pakistan, arriving by ship at the port in Karachi and then snaking through mountain passes, deserts and remote tribal areas before crossing the border into Afghanistan. The Pakistan supply lines are served entirely by contractors instead of U.S. military convoys and are vulnerable to bandits, insurgents and natural disasters.|
- NATO makes this point in the summit declaration with another prod aimed at Pakistan. “The countries in the region, particularly Pakistan, have important roles in ensuring enduring peace, stability, and security in Afghanistan,” the document states, “and in facilitating the completion of the transition process.” (CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR of 22 May)
- Without access to Pakistan, equipment leaving Afghanistan when the U.S. withdraws would have to go by cargo plane and by the northern routes, which stretch thousands of miles through Russia and Central Asia to ports on the Baltic Sea or through Georgia to the Black Sea. Many of the countries refuse to permit the U.S. to ship ammunition and other lethal equipment through their territory, forcing those supplies to go by air. (LOS ANGELES TIMES of 22 May)
- “Pakistan has to be part of the solution in Afghanistan, and it is in our national interests that to see a Pakistan that is democratic, that is prosperous and that is stable,” Obama said….The NATO alliance needs Pakistan’s cooperation to ensure Afghanistan’s long-term stability and security, NATO’s top officer told reporters. That was a mild way of saying that Pakistan can play the spoiler at will and holds cards the fighting force does not. Pakistan shares history, culture and language with Afghanistan’s restive southern swath, and maintains support for Taliban-led insurgents who cross the border to kill U.S. and NATO forces (US, Pakistan relations in prolonged slump over supply routes, other issues – AP)
- Compared to the detailed, specific, and increasingly dense U.S.-Afghan security partnership, the U.S.-Afghan governance partnership is almost non-existent. The United States risks replicating the same error in Afghanistan that characterized U.S. policy towards Pakistan for the last six decades (Promises, promises: The U.S.-Afghan Strategic Partnership of 22 May)
- GEN. BRADSHAW: Yes. I can tell you that we’re currently in talks with our Pakistan colleagues on how we might get those routes open. Clearly we’re managing very well without them, but on the other hand, it would be extremely helpful for us if we had access to them. And clearly, the Pakistanis would derive some financial benefit from that as well. So between us, we hope to get through the problems that we’ve encountered which caused the closure, which were highly regrettable, and get back on an even keel. But I have to tell you that in our talks — our ongoing talks with our Pakistan military colleagues, there is, you know, the rebuilding of a very good relationship there. We’ve got a common interest in addressing the terrorist insurgent problem that crosses the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. And things are moving in the right direction there.( Defece Dept Brief 9 May)
- Obama knows that he can’t succeed in Afghanistan without coming to terms with Pakistan. So why is his diplomacy so lousy?(FOREIGN POLICY of 24 May)
Extracts From Business Recorder
ISLAMABAD, May 29 Business Recorder, 2012: Pak-US negotiators are yet to make any breakthrough …Though United States Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has rejected Pakistan demand of $5,000 per NATO container transit fee, Pakistani officials engaged with their US counterparts in the ongoing dialogue are insisting on this amount.
Out of the total proposed $5,000, Ministry of Communication intends to get $1000 as charges to be inter alia used to maintain and support infrastructure of Karachi-Torkham and Karachi-Chaman roads.
Chairman National Highway Authority (NHA) Mohammad Ali Gardezi while talking to Business Recorder said that the Ministry has proposed $1,000 per container to offset the Rs100 billion in damages caused to the road infrastructure during the past 10 years. About collection of the fee, the chairman NHA said that the Ministry has proposed that toll should be charged at the port stage.
Informed sources said that the remaining $4,000 would consist of the following charges: stocking, port charges, handling, scanning of goods and charges on account of road safety and environmental impact. This would go to the national exchequer, sources revealed. Before the Salala incident the US was paying around 250 dollars per container for such charges.
…..The $5,000 currently being negotiated does not include the actual cost of transporting the goods from Karachi port to Kabul/Kandahar. Prior to the Salala incident the actual charge by private sector truckers according to Shakirullah Afridi, president Trucks and Containers Association was between 250,000 to 300,000 rupees per container which according to last year rupee dollar parity was around Rs 88.5 per dollar giving a cost of $ 2824 per container to $ 3389 per container Oil tankers were charging Rs 12 per litre while one tanker can carry 55,000 to 60,000 litres. The cost of transport has gone up due to the rise in the price of fuel and private trucking companies while talking Business Recorder said that after the deal is struck they would also raise transport charges.
Total cost per container therefore would be around $ 9000, still a viable deal and half of what the US pays for transport through the Northern Distribution Network (NDN), Central Asia which costs up to $17,500 per container.
The NATO supplies through NDN take around 60 days to reach their destinations in Afghanistan whereas, the supplies via Pakistan’s GLOC take eight days from Karachi to Kandahar via Chaman border and up to 11 days from Karachi to Kabul through Torkham border.
When contacted, Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) said that the department has the legal authority to impose transit fee on Afghan commercial cargo, including NATO/ISAF containers, under the newly introduced provision of the Customs Act 1969.
…..In order to provide self-sustaining infrastructure and services at customs stations and en route, an enabling provision for collection of transit fee is being provided by adding a new section namely 129A in the Customs Act, 1969. According to the provisions of the section 129A of the Customs Act, a transit fee may be levied on any goods or class of goods in transit across Pakistan to a foreign territory at such rates as the Board may, by notification in the official Gazette, prescribe.
Pakistani customs authorities have already started collecting insurance guarantees on the Afghan transit consignments under the Afghanistan Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA).
As for as the proposal of 50 percent of NATO container to be handled through Pakistan Railways, officials at the Pakistan Railways said that the proposal was still in hand but with little chance of materializing because of the unsettled dispute over transportation of goods from the point of origination to destination. i.e. from Karachi port to Kabul/ Kandahar.
But Pakistan Railways insisted that they could only provide its service from Karachi Port to Chaman and Peshawar whereas US wants transportation from Karachi Port to Kabul and Kandahar, said an official of the Pakistan Railways on condition of anonymity.
According to him, during the ongoing negotiations, the US side has conveyed to their Pakistani counterparts that all their contractors at any part of the world are bound under the agreement to pick the goods from starting point and deliver till the final destination without any specification whether they transport the goods via sea, air and road.