The unconventional warfare known as, asymmetric, bush, shadow, guerilla, and war of attrition is cost prohibitive on human resource, material and time matrix. It is easy to initiate, difficult to maintain and next to impossible to cease it on a win, win note. The neo-cons with the premise of new-imperialism initiated the War on Terror, and occupied Afghanistan by stationing almost 140,000 Extra Regional Forces and around 50,000 foreign logistic and security personnel including infamous Blackwater to the detriment of regional stability. The corporate war managers miscalculated the cost and dividends of war and Pakistan military dictator drew wishful inference from the fog of war to be short and confined to the boundaries of Afghanistan. However, the decade long war has so far devoured more than three trillionUS dollars. The sustenance level is around 3,500 tons per day for the foreign security elements. They require almost one and a half million litres of fuel, oil and lubricants to grease their war machine on daily bases. The destruction, burning, looting, pillage and diversion of NATO’s supplies in route take a sizable piece of NATO’s cake.There are two main routes available to support the war efforts in Afghanistan. The primary NATO main supply route passes through Pakistan via Karachi—Torkham/ Chaman border towns and then up to Kabul and Kandahar respectively. The secondary Northern Distribution Network (NDN) connects Baltic and Caspian Sea ports with Afghanistan through Russia and Central Asia and the Caucuses. And they combine sea, rail and truck transport at multi-transit staging stations. The twin routes are passing through the volatile areas and are exposed to subversion and interdiction at the hands of US/NATO resisting forces. The safe passage of these trucks is captive to the check posts, taxes, and extortion of Afghan warlords, tribal chieftains and Taliban, up to their final destination. The levies are paid in US dollars by the US/NATO Forces or support companies. The logistic need is so large and dominant that it requires a sustained, continuous and uninterrupted supply chain to feed the armies which marches on their bellies; and to fuel the burning exhausts of tanks and gunships puffing smoke in the gusty winds of Afghanistan.The closure of NATO supplies passing through Pakistan since the attack on Salala check post by NATO forces on Nov 26, 2011, has inflected a severe blow on the logistic chain. The supply chain through the Northern Distribution Network (NDN) is not only cost prohibitive by three times but unviable in time and space dimensions. The road communication network in Northern Afghanistan is long, sluggish for heavy cargo and more prone to interdiction and severance due to heavy snow falls during winters. Russia still feels the headache of traversing this route during their occupation of Afghanistan, but NATO and US will not learn. The geo-strategic compulsion dictates that the logistic support for the war on terror is subject to the Pakistan’s sea, ground and air space traverse. So, by implication Pakistan holds the key to the NATO operations in Afghanistan. As the chips are down to the level of parting the ways, then NATO should discuss strategy, while Pakistan should profess logistics. The adage “Amateurs discuss strategy while professionals talk logistics.” will assert it self again and again.Realizing the gravity of the situation,General William Fraser, Commander US Transportation Command told the Senate Armed Services Committee at his confirmation hearing that they are working on reducing their dependency on supply routes in Pakistan by placing more dependence on the ND network and air cargo. The US logisticians have an ambitious logistic undertaking to bring down the dependence via Pakistan to 35%, almost half of the present material bulk and load. The US logistic wizards have been working on this logistic flexibility since the fissures became visible in the US-Pak nexus in the war on terror due to Raymond Davis episode and May 2 unilateral raid on Osama’s compound by US Navy Seals in Abbottabad. To meet the end game with little scathing and maximum advantage the American logisticians have drawn the lines to reduce their dependence on Pakistan and lessen the leverage available to Pakistan under the present logistic arrangements. Their approach is two prongs, one to reduce the size of war machine and second to explore and pipeline new and secure routes. The race is against the time, as evident from the question of Senator John McCain from General Fraser, “how long it would take you to adjust to keep the same level of logistics into Afghanistan”? The inference drawn from the diversion of logistics routes is that the sooner they achieve that, the earlier they will abandon Pakistan. The US will keep Pakistan engaged at low level strategic plinth till their objectives are fulfilled in the next couple of years. The leverage Pakistan enjoys in the severance of NATO’s umbilical cord is just a matter of time, if not taken advantage in the limited time and space dimensions the umbilical cord may become that of a still-baby. The storage capacity of Extra Regional Forces in Afghanistan has shrunk below the war wastage rate; therefore operations in southern and eastern Afghanistan have been kept on hold. The logistic needs are being met through smuggling, cost prohibitive air cargo and local purchase on higher rates. NATO is also using the umbrella of Afghan Transit Trade in narrowing down the fuel shortfalls. The troops’ movements have been restricted to the bare minimum with the result that Taliban have gone on the offensive and the local police and army personnel resort to bizarre killing of Allied forces. The cracks in the coalition forces are visible that France and Australia are mulling withdrawal of their forces. The sustenance cost has gone up by 87 million dollars i.e. six times higher per month.It is ironic that the NATO heavy load cargo/carriers rutting our roads were paying only toll tax. It suffices to say, that they were winning the heads and we were losing the tails in this whole gambit of war and logistics. Besides, a bloody nose we got bullies, threats, bruised sovereignty and trust deficit on all fronts. Lately, hope lastly, the Non-NATO Ally Status State was treated as an enemy rather than a feeble ally. The lesson learnt from this estranged bed fellowship is that Pakistan was taken for granted due to our submission before submission. It is high time to take a stand and draw lines in the supreme national interest rather than individual/institutional interests. The noose around the supply chain be kept tight till they submit an apology, renounce drones attacks, all sorts of incursions and pay for the damages caused to our main road communication infrastructure. A calibrated approach be adopted to de-escalate on the war on terror and each drone attack or incursion shall cost the NATO in a measured quid pro-co response. Let the reported one billion dollars bill shall not lure us again on the beaten track. Let there be no more U-turns and shall restrict our cooperation towards peace making rather than war mongering. We can choose or abandon a friend but not a neighbour. The bocked is working as a catalyst in advancing the US/NATO withdrawal time lines.
Brig (Retd) Said Nazir Mohmand