Sunday, December 18, 2011

Vulnerability of US Supplies in Afghanistan

“Your homeland is like your mother. You can screw people here and there, that’s just business. But you never, ever screw your mother.” Pakistani Transporter Shakir Afridi

One of the biggest challenges of waging war anywhere is supply logistics to deployed troops. The supply challenge becomes even more formidable when the war theater is a landlocked country located thousands of miles away and involves transit through one or more other countries and international border crossings. The United States military has been facing such a challenge since it deployed in Afghanistan in 2001, and it's become only more difficult since the Obama troop surge in 2009 and worsening ties with Pakistan.

There are three different routes being used to supply US troops in Afghanistan: Pakistan Lines of Communication (PLC), Northern Distribution Network (NDN), and Airlift.

Pakistani Lines of Communication:

Pakistan routes are the fastest, shortest and least expensive way to supply US forces in Afghanistan.

The routes begin at the Karachi port in Pakistan. One goes north toward the logistical hub at Bagram Airfield, and the other west toward Kandahar. These have always been the primary option for American forces, being the shortest and cheapest, requiring only one border crossing, and minimal time on the road inside Afghanistan. Nearly 60,000 trucks drive more than 1,200 miles through the length of Pakistan every year carrying supplies and fuel. According to varying figures provided by U.S. and NATO forces, 40 percent to 60 percent of all military supplies used by coalition forces in Afghanistan come through Pakistan.

Figures released by the Pakistan Federal Tax Ombudsman illustrate the surge in traffic at Karachi’s port. U.S. military equipment received at the port rose from nearly 16,000 shipping containers in 2005 to more than 54,000 in 2009. Halfway through 2010 the U.S. military had already shipped nearly 30,000 containers to Karachi.

The spike in US supplies through Pakistan has spawned a huge trucking business controlled mostly by Pashtuns from FATA, also known as Pathans, like Shakir Afridi who is quoted at the beginning of this post. His own fleet has grown from a few vehicles in 2001 to nearly 4,000 flatbeds and more than 3,000 fuel tankers that haul military supplies into Afghanistan. His quote is indicative of the depth of anger shared by most Pakistanis at the slaughter of 24 Pakistani soldiers by the US troops last November.

Northern Distribution Network:

The NDN route is longer, slower, and six times more expensive than the PLC route through Pakistan. It involves multiple modes of transport through several countries in Europe and Central Asia. Many are under strong Russian influence, and some do not allow military gear to be transported through their territory, according to a Businessweek report.

A network through Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia that crosses through at least 16 countries, using a combination of roads, railway, air, and water to move supplies in from the north. The chain can be complex and circuitous. One path through the network, for example, might involve military cargo that arrives by sea in Istanbul. From there it travels the width of Turkey on truck and crosses the northern border into Poti, Georgia. In Georgia the equipment goes by rail to Baku in Azerbaijan, where it’s loaded onto a ship bound for the Kazakh Port of Aktau, across the Caspian Sea. Then it’s put on trucks for the 1,000-mile ride through Kazakhstan, then a train through Kyrgyzstan and, finally, into Afghanistan.


This is the most expensive option and it, too, relies heavily on Pakistan's cooperation. US Air Force carriers are already airlifting supplies to Afghanistan, but their use, at this stage, is “imperceptible” given the $14,000-per-ton cost of moving goods this way, according to a US government source. Most of these flights are routed through Pakistani airspace. If the relations get worse, the Pakistanis could shut the air-link to the US military.

Switching Routes:

“If you look at the trajectory, it’s clear which way the [US-Pakistan] relationship is going. It will be difficult to overcome yet another serious problem. The policy implication is that we need to diversify [transit routes] as much as we can and as quickly as we can. That’s what the US government has been all about recently,” an unnamed US government official told Deirdre Tynan of Eurasianet.

“But the real question is whether the NDN can fully compensate for what’s happened in Pakistan. We have a good NDN, but we also have Central Asian roads that are not the best,” he added. The NDN’s rail component is expected to pick up most of the extra freight volume.

Regardless of the rhetoric emanating from Washington, the fact is that the US is very likely to remain heavily dependent on Pakistan for the foreseeable future.

At a congressional hearing this year before the border incident of Nov 26, Lieutenant General Mitchell H. Stevenson, the U.S. Army’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics, was asked what the “long term impact” would be if the supply route through Pakistan was “suddenly shut down.” After explaining that the Army kept a 45-day supply of reserve fuel on the ground in Afghanistan, the general said they could only “last several weeks” without any significant impact.


Pakistan has the longest border with Afghanistan and wields more influence there than any other country. It also provides the nearest seaport to Kabul. That is the fundamental reason why the U.S. has provided more than $20 billion to the country over the past decade, much of it to ensure supply logistics to US troops. “If we want to be successful in Afghanistan,” as General James L. Jones Jr., former National Security Advisor to President Barack Obama, said in recent congressional testimony, “the roads to that success have a lot to do with Pakistan.” Given these ground realities, the sooner the US apologizes to Pakistan for the Nov 26 incident to try and restore ties, the better it will be to achieve an end to the longest war in US history.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

US Military Undermining Interests in "AfPak"

Northern Distribution Network

From Pakistan to Afghanistan, U.S. Finds Convoy of Chaos

Is US-Pakistan Military Confrontation Inevitable?

Seeing Bin Laden's Death in Wider Perspective

Who Are the Haqqanis?

Military Mutiny in Pakistan?

Can US Aid Remake Pakistan?

The Obama Surge Strategy

US War Effort in Afghanistan Relies on Pakistan


satwa gunam said...

Article and the response might give more feedback on what american feels about this incidence.

Anonymous said...

PAkistan is in no position to threaten/blackmail the US.

The US could also blockade PAkistan's sea routes if it is pushed beyond a point.What is Pakistan gonna do then?

Riaz Haq said...

Anon: "The US could also blockade PAkistan's sea routes if it is pushed beyond a point.What is Pakistan gonna do then? "

If you think it's that simple, I wonder why the US Navy hasn't already blockaded Iran which is seen as a threat to US interests and oil supplies through the Strait of Hormuz?

Or blockaded North Korea which continues to pose a threat to US interests in East Asia?

Akbar said...

Just apologizing is not enough---Sam must compensate at least 10 million dollars per person killed by him throughout the Afghan War. Even with a hundred trillion dollars per head, those lives can never be brought back.

Anonymous said...

Do u think pak can get away by making life difficult for US? If you think so u r living in a world of fantasies. US is and going to be an influential player in south asia for a long time to come. They can and will cause economic hardships in Pakistan. This will lead to social unrest. I hope you know we are not like countries in the middleast with plenty of oil resources. Why do you think we have electricity and fuel supply problems when there is so much of demand?

Riaz Haq said...

Anon: "Do u think pak can get away by making life difficult for US?"

Neither the US nor Pakistan can get away with making life difficult for each other. Recognition of strong mutual dependence will likely help resolve the issues and keep the difficult relationship intact for the foreseeable future.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Huffington Post piece on US-Pak ties and US elections:

The crises of 2011 are ripping apart a working relationship with Pakistan. Controversy over CIA agent Raymond Davis, the raid on the bin Laden compound, accusations of ISI support for the Taliban, civilian casualties caused by drone attacks, and now NATO airstrikes on Pakistani soldiers have roiled emotions. One must view these events as a whole, not individually. They are tying the hands of Pakistan's military and civilian leaders in cooperating with the U.S. to fight our common enemies. Here, political attitudes and opinions on Capitol Hill and among voters have hardened, complicating our ability to forge policies that enable effective engagement with Pakistan.

The interests of both countries mandate that Pakistan's military and elected government unite in fighting violent extremism. One needed step is strong Pakistani communication campaign to marginalize and de-legitimize the extremists. That could lay the political foundation for taking the military battle to militants. They've at time proven they can do that. But the controversies over U.S. actions have instead led Islamabad to adopt policies that obstruct fighting extremists. Success requires that we work together to overcome the widely shared perception that the U.S. deliberately seeks to abuse Pakistani sovereignty and that cooperation with us makes the military or civilians American pawns.

What can the presidential aspirants do? They can go beyond the current rhetoric to register points that resonate with Pakistanis and serve our mutual interests. Turning relations with Pakistan into partisan fodder is not useful. It would send a powerful message for the Pakistanis to hear from both parties the following:

· The U.S. supports the primacy of elected civilian government and democratic institutions even while it works with Pakistan's military leaders to address our interests, especially in Afghanistan.
· While we may have to condition our military aid to Pakistan's cooperation within its borders in fighting Afghan insurgents, we should stand strongly behind pro-democracy forces. That embraces targeted civilian aid that is carefully monitored to ensure proper use and branding so that we receive credit for our contributions.
· The U.S. is ready to expand trade by foregoing the protectionism so hurtful to Pakistan's struggling economy. This assistance as well as creation of Reconstruction Opportunity Zones will win us more friends than our current aid programs. This will show that in the national interest we are prepared to make difficult domestic political decisions.
· We recognize that Pakistan has legitimate security interests in Afghanistan and that with 35 million Pashtuns, no Pakistan government can support action that fails to address their concerns. But we won't tolerate its using the Pashtun card to meddle, and
won't allow it to obstruct a political settlement that would end the insurgency.
· Whatever suspicion Pakistan may harbor, as journalist Zahid Hussain has noted, only the U.S. offers Pakistanis hope for the future. No other nation does that.

These messages to Pakistan will put the political discourse between Pakistan and the U.S. on a sounder footing. It will vest Pakistani policy makers and military with more flexibility to fight violent extremism and help revitalize ties with the U.S. What the candidates for President say, and how they say it, can make a huge difference in advancing or blocking what is mutually beneficial. Meanwhile, it will require Pakistani leaders who are willing to stand up against the tide of opinion and take their own political risks.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Express Tribune report on US supply lines into Afghanistan:

Citing figures from the US Transportation Command, only 29 per cent of cargo goes through Pakistan, whereas 40 per cent goes through the NDN, and the rest is shipped by air. However, the committee report says that the NDN is not an ideal replacement for current supply routes in Pakistan. The NDN only allows goods to be sent to Afghanistan and not back, and also only allows for the transit of non-lethal supplies. “Sensitive and high-technology equipment is transported by airlift.”

The NDN supply route also costs the United States more money. An additional $10,000 is spent on sending a 20-foot container to ship via the NDN as opposed to sending it through Pakistan. Airlifting supplies into Afghanistan is the costliest – with an additional $40,000 per 20-foot container spent on sending it by air.

The report also highlights the challenges faced by the United States in allying with Central Asian states. “In many cases, the United States is forced to rely on highly corrupt, authoritarian governments in countries whose populations are suspicious of US intentions.” Citing fears that Russia and China has about US involvement in the region, the report says that China is “even more nervous about the risk of instability in Afghanistan should the United States and its partners fail to help stabilise the country.”

Recommendations presented in the report including striking a balance between security and political priorities in Central Asia, working on regional cooperation especially in controlling narcotics trafficking, and working on the New Silk Road vision, outlined by Secretary Clinton earlier this year, and helping connect South and Central Asia via Afghanistan.

Riaz Haq said...

Longest 33 day pause in drone strikes in Pakistan since 2008, reports Long War Journal:

The covert US drone program that hunts al Qaeda and allied terrorists operating in Pakistan's tribal areas has entered its longest pause since the strikes were ramped up in the summer of 2008.

The US has not launched a Predator or Reaper airstrike against terrorist targets in Pakistan for 33 days, according to statistics compiled by The Long War Journal. The last strike took place on Nov. 16 in the Ramzak area of North Waziristan.

US officials have previously told The Long War Journal that the program is "on hold" due to deteriorating relations between the US and Pakistan from the fallout of a cross-border incident by NATO forces in the tribal agency of Mohmand that resulted in the deaths of 24 Pakistani officers and soldiers.

One US official told The Long War Journal there is concern that another US strike on Pakistani soil will "push US-Pakistan relations past the point of no return." Another official said, however, that the US would attack if "an extremely high value target pops up." [See LWJ report, US drone strikes 'on hold' in Pakistan: US official, for more information on the reasons behind the current pause.]

The 33-day-long gap in strikes is the longest since another pause that took place in the spring of 2009 (28 days, May 16 to June 14). US officials attributed that gap to operational issues with the unmanned aircraft.

The third- and fourth-longest pauses also took place earlier this year, during a time of high tensions with Pakistan. A 27-day-long gap in strikes from Jan. 23 to Feb. 20 occurred after CIA contractor Raymond Davis killed two Pakistanis in Lahore. The US ended the pause in strikes the day Davis was returned to the US.

And a 25-day-long gap from March 17 to April 13 took place after the US killed dozens of Pakistanis in a strike in North Waziristan. That strike killed a senior Taliban leader and 11 fighters along with an estimated 30 tribesmen who were said to be negotiating mineral rights in the area. Several members of the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, the military's intelligence arm, which supports the Taliban and other terror groups, were rumored to have also been killed in the strikes.

US officials had previously denied that the two pauses earlier this year were due to tensions with Pakistan, and instead cited operational issues with the unmanned aircraft, to include "weather." There have been significant pauses during that seasonal time period in previous years.

But one US official told The Long War Journal that the two long pauses earlier this year were indeed related to political problems with Pakistan encountered during those time frames.

"If it isn't clear by now, the airstrikes targeting AQAM (al Qaeda and allied movements) have been constrained by deteriorating relations [with Pakistan]," a senior US official said.

Read more:

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan is turning away from the West and looking East, reports

(Dai Bingguo) visit came shortly after Beijing and Islamabad finalized a $1.6 billion currency swap agreement which will allow the two countries to boost their trade relations and decrease the involvement of the dollar. Currently China-Pakistan trade stands at $10 billion a year, but Dai has called for that figure to be increased to $15 billion over the next three to four years.

China is strengthening its role as a regional leader, and Pakistan is among key targets for Beijing’s influence building strategy. It is investing in a number of big construction projects in the country, including the Karakorum Highway and Gwadar Port, both of which will improve China’s transport links with energy-rich Gulf nations. It will also help Pakistan develop its nuclear power industry.

The Chinese army also regularly performs joint war games with Pakistani forces. Islamabad is seeking China’s military support against its long-time rival, India, while China needs a stable and well-defended Pakistan to stop any future incursion into its territory of extremists from volatile Afghanistan.

The visit comes as Pakistan distances itself from its long-time strategic ally, the US. The year 2011 was a difficult one for relations between Islamabad and Washington, with a number of incidents contributing to the deterioration. The downward spiral started in January when a CIA contractor killed two men but later evaded punishment because families of the victims were paid blood money. The case caused anger in Pakistan when the US said the perpetrator had diplomatic immunity and demanded his release.

In May, US commandos raided Pakistan’s territory and killed Osama bin Laden, who had been living in the country for several years. Islamabad was given no warning of the operation, which angered the Pakistani military. Washington said if it had informed Pakistan’s government in advance, the Al-Qaeda leader would have been alerted, enabling him to escape.

In November, a US air strike on a Pakistani border post killed 24 troops who were mistaken for Taliban militants. It took the Pentagon a month to reluctantly admit their part of the blame for the deadly mistake and offer apologies. However, the Pakistani military do not appear to consider the case closed.

The Americans also have their share of grudges against Pakistan, from the alleged embezzlement of military aid to alleged support for Taliban attacks in Afghanistan, to harboring bin Laden. With relations between the allies deteriorating, Pakistan has more and more incentive to turn away from the US as its key partner and side with China, which challenges American influence in the region.

Joseph Chang, a professor of political science at Hong Kong City University, believes the alliance is beneficial to both sides. China, an ally of Pakistan against India and Soviet Union during the Cold War, now sees the benefits of a partnership with Pakistan as primarily economic.

“Pakistan has been Beijing’s best ally throughout the history of the People’s Republic of China,” he told RT. “Increasingly, Pakistan has a certain strategic value to China because of the completion of the Karakorum Highway, as well as the almost-completion of the Gwadar port. China certainly hopes that it can, through land links to Pakistan, then open up sea links to the Indian Ocean and bring oil through this route, avoiding the overcrowded Straits of Malacca.”

Chang believes Pakistan could also profit from the alliance: “China is always very helpful in terms of trade, investment as well as military and economic aid. So having an ally like China will help to much strengthen Pakistan’s bargaining power with Washington DC.”

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Friday Times story on the impact of NATO supplies on trucking business in Pakistan:

The US and NATO depended heavily on Pakistan for logistic support and a large percentage of the supplies to their troops in Afghanistan when the Afghanistan war began in 2001.

"But after constant attacks on our supplies, we decided to find an alternative route in 2007," said John Arlington, who represents a major contractor in Dubai. "In 2011, less than 40 percent of all NATO and ISAF supplies go through Pakistan."

Arlington explained how truck trade works. "Front-end companies get contracts in DC, and outsource contracts to businessmen in Dubai, who then outsource to trucking companies in Afghanistan and Pakistan."

The business has been so profitable in Pakistan that most transporters have started working exclusively for NATO suppliers, and there is a serious truck shortage, said Umer Ansari, a middle manager in Karachi who looks after supply chain management. "We are paying Rs 124,000 to Rs 130,000 per trip from Karachi to Faisalabad as opposed to Rs 95,000 three months ago."

The Karachi Port Trust (KPT) charges a levy of Rs 400 per container of NATO supplies, and the Qasim International Containers Terminal (QICT) charges another Rs400.

Traders say Pakistani sub-contractors earn $250 million to $300 million a year. "But profits comes with risks," said Muhammad Azam, 38, originally from Wana but living in Karachi.

In mid 2000s, an arrested terrorist disclosed that his group had been trained in suicide bombing by Baitullah Mehsud and was asked to attack NATO trucks. Contractors abducted by the Taliban have to pay ransoms as high as $35 million.

Americans have built one of the largest consulates of the world in Karachi and have repeatedly sought the assistance British diplomats to engage with MQM - a key political party in Karachi - to maintain peace in the city. According to one source, the ANP has huge stakes in NATO supplies and has strong influence among Karachi's transporters. Transporters who deal with NATO supplies are often Mehsuds and Afridis from the tribal belt.

"Its one of the toughest jobs in the world," sub-contractor Abdul Hakim Mehsud said. "Over 13 of my trucks and three of my drivers have vanished in interior Sindh recently. But the profit margins are high and that keeps me motivated."

According to Mathew Irvin, a security consultant for NATO/ISAF in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the recent attacks on NATO supplies in Interior Sindh that began after 2009 are used by the Pakistani security establishment to pressure the US. "Some sub-contractors also report fake attacks to carry out insurance fraud," he said. At least on one occasion, a sub-contractor was caught and fined.

"Gawadar is an alternative port, but it is not operational yet," said Brigadier (r) Shaukat Qadir. He said Pakistan received payments for NATO supplies and it was therefore important for Pakistan to ensure the supplies were not disrupted. Asked who is behind attacks on trucks carrying NATO supplies, he said, "My guess would be TTP and its affiliates, the Punjabi Taliban."

"In December 2008, militants destroyed 400 containers carrying food, fuel, and military vehicles," a NATO source said. After that, NATO and ISAF began paying tribes to ensure trucks reached their destination."

"The attacks are not likely to stop any time soon," according to a foreign diplomat, "but we have made pacts with warlords, tribes and various stakeholders in Pakistan who ensure safe transit of the goods. They include political parties both in Pakistan and Afghanistan." According to a contractor, those who profit from the business include "sacred cows".

Riaz Haq said...

The closure of Pak routes poses a problem for withdrawing Canadian troops in Afghanistan, according to Montreal Gazette:

Hundreds of cargo containers of Canadian war supplies are stranded in volatile southern Afghanistan, thanks to an ongoing Pakistani blockade of routes exiting the landlocked country.

And with Pakistani officials preparing to impose steep tariffs on all NATO shipments transiting the country, the cost of Canada's withdrawal from Afghanistan could increase by more than a half million dollars.

The Canadian Forces are trying to bring home thousands of tonnes of war equipment used during the nearly 10-year combat mission. Packed into some 446 sea containers, most of this cargo is currently stored at an undisclosed location in Afghanistan.

High priority items — such as all armoured vehicles and ammunition — have already been flown out of Afghanistan on Canada's giant CC-177 Globemaster transport aircraft.

Nevertheless, much of the army's gear remains stuck in Afghanistan, Lt.-Col. John Nethercott told Postmedia News. He said the remaining items are "low priority in nature," and include tools, tents, forklifts, barbed wire and engineering equipment.

The Department of National Defence has granted a contract to move the containers from Afghanistan to Pakistan to A.J. Maritime, a Montreal-based freight forwarding firm.

It is believed the remaining 446 containers were supposed to exit Afghanistan's southeastern border post at Spin Boldak, then cross the deserts of Balochistan to the port of Karachi. Once at the port, the containers would be loaded onto ships for the sail home to Canada.

But Imran Ali, Pakistan's deputy consul general in Toronto, told Postmedia News Wednesday that the Afghan-Pakistan border is shut tight for now.

"No containers are passing as of today," he said. "There is a total sealing of the border."

Ali said this problem began when United States forces bombed two Pakistani border posts in late November, leaving 24 soldiers dead and 13 wounded. After a day of frenzied meetings about the "unprovoked attack," Pakistani officials announced they would take steps to disrupt NATO supply lines in and out of the Afghan theatre.

"The (Defence Committee of Cabinet) has decided to close with immediate effect the NATO/ISAF logistics supply lines," said a Nov. 26 statement by the Pakistani Foreign Ministry.

Following the closure of the border, Pakistan began a comprehensive policy review of its relations with NATO. Ali said the national security committee of the Pakistani parliament is "in the final stages of drawing out a policy" that will be published within three to four days.

Ali said Pakistan is considering levying a tax on all NATO containers passing through the country, and that officials have discussed a $1,500 U.S. charge per shipping container.

"Customs officials, along with foreign policy officials in Pakistan, are discussing the amount of levy to enforce," Ali said.

Such a tariff, applied to 446 containers, would cost Canada some $660,000 U.S..

Read more:

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from a post by Jim Koury (Eurasia Review) on the NATO supply situation in Afghanistan:

“It’s almost impossible to succeed in beating al-Qaeda and the Taliban without access to Pakistan or having the Pakistan security forces as a U.S. ally,” said former military intelligence officer and police commander Mike Snopes.

The United States had expressed deep regret over the NATO air strike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers near Afghanistan’s border with that nation November 25-26, and offered to compensate the families of those killed and wounded in the incident, but ground supply routes through Pakistan remained closed to coalition forces in Afghanistan, according to Cheryl Pellerin of the American Forces Press Service.

“We conducted a thorough investigation into the border incident, we have acknowledged and take responsibility for the mistakes we made on 25-26 Nov, [and] … we have expressed our deepest regret to the Pakistani people, to the families of those who were lost and those who were wounded,” Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said.

“We are hopeful,” he added, “that our Pakistani partners will reopen the ground supply routes.”

Supplies are adequate to continue the war effort in Afghanistan, Little said, adding that supplies are coming into Afghanistan through air routes and through the northern distribution network, a series of commercially based logistic arrangements connecting Baltic and Caspian ports with Afghanistan via Russia, Central Asia and the Caucasus.

“The relationship with Pakistan is important on many levels. They’re an important partner, and we cooperate with them on counterterrorism and other efforts,” the press secretary said.

“That being said, we know there have been rough patches, particularly over the past year,” he added. “But it remains an essential relationship, and we’re committed to improving that relationship over time.”

On Dec. 26, U.S. Central Command released an unclassified version of an investigation report of the cross-border incident by its investigating officer, Air Force Brig. Gen. Stephen Clark, director of plans, programs, requirements and assessments for Air Force Special Operations Command.

A copy of the report was delivered to the Pakistani government, Little said. Pakistani officials were invited to participate in the investigation, but they declined.

According to the report, on the night of November 25-26, an Afghan army commando company, partnered with U.S. Army Special Forces, landed in the Khas Kunar district of Afghanistan’s Kunar province in an area of operations assigned to the International Security Assistance Force’s Regional Command East.

The ground forces were executing an operation approved by ISAF Joint Command headquarters when they came under fire from positions on a ridge near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

In self-defense, the report said, they used air support to engage the ridgeline positions.

The air engagement ended 90 minutes later and had included about 45 minutes of fire. Eventually, it became clear from various information exchanges that those engaged at the ridge were Pakistani military personnel.

In the early hours of Nov. 26, the report said, supporting aircraft pulled back from the border area and Pakistani authorities reinforced their border positions and reportedly removed 24 dead and 13 wounded....

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an AP report on the high cost of alternative routes while NATO supplies thru Pakistan remain shut:

The U.S. is paying six times as much to send war supplies to troops in Afghanistan through alternate routes after Pakistan’s punitive decision in November to close border crossings to NATO convoys, the Associated Press has learned.

Islamabad shut down two key Pakistan border crossings after a U.S. airstrike killed two dozen Pakistani soldiers in late November, and it is unclear when the crossings might reopen.

Pentagon figures provided to the AP show it is now costing about $104 million per month to send the supplies through a longer northern route. That is $87 million more per month than when the cargo moved through Pakistan.

While U.S. officials have acknowledged that using alternate transportation routes for Afghan war supplies is more expensive and takes longer, the total costs had not been revealed until now. The Pentagon provided the cost figures to the AP on Thursday.

U.S. officials said Thursday the elevated costs are likely to continue for some time, as U.S.-Pakistan tensions remain high and Pakistan has not yet offered to restore the transport arrangement or to begin negotiations on the matter. Until the closure, the U.S. had relied on Pakistani routes to move about one-third of all war supplies for Afghanistan.

The U.S. has given Pakistan more than $20 billion in aid since 9/11, including civilian and military assistance. But over the past year, relations with Islamabad have been strained by a series of incidents, including the U.S. assault in Pakistan last May that killed Osama bin Laden.
Pakistani officials say they are sorting through the thousands of stranded vehicles to push through supplies for Afghans. So far, the Pakistanis have given no indication of when they will open the border for NATO supplies to Afghanistan.

There has been limited contact between top U.S. and Pakistani officials.

Last week, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, talked by phone with his Pakistani counterpart, Army Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, their first contact since Dec. 21. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has not spoken to Pakistani leaders since the incident.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Global Post story on NATO using smugglers to supply its troops in Afghanistan through Pakistan:

With few other options available to it since Pakistan closed its border crossings almost two months ago, NATO has at times resorted to paying local smugglers to get much-needed supplies to its troops fighting in Afghanistan, Pakistani officials say.

The Pakistani and Afghan smugglers, who must pay bribes to militants to travel safely through some areas, navigate treacherous routes over the 1,800-mile mountainous divide that separates the two countries to bring containers of oil, food and other essential items — all at a price — to soldiers on the other side.

“Borders mean nothing to us. We have been crossing in and out for centuries,” Sahib Khan, a smuggler who said NATO had hired him, told GlobalPost.

The hiring of illegal smugglers came after a failed attempt by NATO to pay private companies, which truck goods across the border under the Pakistan-Afghanistan Free Trade Agreement (PATA). These private companies, Pakistani officials said, were secretly swapping out their normal cargo for NATO supplies until Pakistani security forces caught wind of the scam.

A senior officer for the Frontier Corps, an elite military unit that is responsible for security along the border, told GlobalPost that a total ban on the movement of containers under PATA, which was signed in 2010 to promote bilateral trade, eventually foiled the strategy.

“We had concrete evidence that some of the containers being imported by private companies, under PATA, were being used to smuggle supplies for NATO troops under cover of commercial imports,” the official said.
Smuggling between Pakistan and Afghanistan has long been a profitable and vibrant business. Various trade agreements have been signed between the two neighbors in a bid to contain the practice, but high import and export taxes coupled with little government oversight, thwarted those attempts.

Mostly items like flour, edible oil, lentils, dried vegetables, contraband cigarettes, and animals for meat are smuggled into Afghanistan, while spare auto parts, electronics and unregistered vehicles are smuggled the other direction.

Smuggling is so widespread that it has become the backbone of the economy in towns and villages along the border, where locally it is treated simply as normal trade. The mountainous terrain provides an edge over security to smugglers who regularly trickle across the border without any trouble.

Sahib said that most of the food and oil supplies he has carried across the border for NATO originate from the southern port city of Karachi, and are moved through Peshawar and Quetta, and finally through Pakistan’s tribal areas, which are largely under the authority of various militant groups.

For those militants, the smugglers have been an important source of income. Smugglers are required to pay “rahdari,” or “passage,” an unofficial tax that allows them safe passage.

“Once we are onto the route, it’s the responsibility of those who receive rahdari to ensure we are able to safely enter into Afghanistan,” Sahib said.

Any smuggling that is done on behalf of NATO can in no way make up for the closed borders, however. Smugglers say they carry between 20 and 25 small containers a day while, when the border crossings were open, NATO shipped an average of 250 large containers a day — making the reopening of the borders essential to the war effort.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an AHN report on US intelligence assessment of US-Pak relations:

At a Senate hearing on Tuesday, top U.S. intelligence officials were candid in admitting that the bilateral relationship with Pakistan is essential but strained at present.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, a retired Air Force lieutenant general, testifying before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, categorized the relationship as “challenging … but important one,” citing Pakistan’s status as a nuclear power.

Replying to a question from chairwoman Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Clapper said, “Their existential threat continues to be India,” stressing that, “Pakistan and our interests are not always congruent.”

“Sometimes our interests converge and sometimes they differ,” said Clapper, adding, “I would characterize the relationship is crucial — we have one and have a positive relationship even though we have gone through some trying times.”

Accepting the fact that present U.S.-Pakistan relations are at their nadir, CIA Director David Petraeus said, “The relationship is very important but relationship right now is quite strained.” He added, “The most recent cause of that, of course, is the 26 November border incident between ISAF and Pakistani forces.”

Petraeus highlighted the ongoing domestic tensions among different political, judicial and military players within Pakistan, saying, “The activities right now are also complicated because of the difficulties in the domestic context there where there is a bit of tension between the Supreme Court, between the Army Chief and the ISI director and the government of president and the prime minister.”

There were positive signs of change in internal political equations in Pakistan, according to Petraeus.

The intelligence chief said it was “worth noting that the former Pakistani ambassador to the United States — Ambassador [Husain] Haqqani was allowed to leave and he did arrive in the UAE this morning.”

Haqqani was forced to resign late last year after Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz claimed Haqqani had asked him to pass on a memo, on behalf of Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, to the American government calling for their help to oust Islamabad’s military leadership.

Ijaz has since hesitated to return to Pakistan to appear before the Pakistani agencies investigating the truth behind the claims.

Citing “awareness there that this is a critically important relationship,” Petraeus said, “There is a committee (in the Pakistani Parliament) that is determining recommendations to make for the government for the way forward between United States and Pakistan.”

On the ongoing refuge and safe heavens in Pakistan for terrorists, Clapper said, “During the past year, the Taliban lost some ground, but that was mainly in places where the International Security Assistance Forces … were concentrated,” adding that “the Taliban’s senior leaders continued to enjoy safe haven in Pakistan.”

Clapper argued that for success Afghanistan needed support from ISAF and its neighbors — particularly Pakistan. “And although there’s broad international political support for the Afghan government,” he added, “there are doubts in many capitals, particularly in Europe, about how to fund Afghanistan initiatives after 2014.”

Riaz Haq said...

US allocates $2.4 billion in aid for Pakistan in 2013, according to Express Tribune:

The White House has allocated $800 million for Pakistan’s Counterinsurgency Capability Fund (PCCF) in its budget for fiscal year 2013, whereas the State Department and USAID budget for Pakistan comes to $2.4 billion.

The budget, which will go to Congress for approval, shows a decrease of $50 million in the allocation figure for PCCF from last year. The purpose of the fund is to “build and maintain the counterinsurgency capability” of Pakistan’s security forces. The services provided by the US include human rights training, providing equipment, supplies, training and infrastructure repair.

The description of the PCCF stated in the budget documents released by the State Department state that the PCCF “enhances the capabilities of the Pakistan Army, the Pakistan Air Force, and the Frontier Corps by meeting their needs for training, equipment, and infrastructure. The PCCF will assist the Government of Pakistan to eliminate the violent extremists’ ability to operate along its border with Afghanistan. The PCCF account will draw down when the need for intensive support for engagement against terrorist organisations in Pakistan declines.”

State Department

In a press release issued by the State Department, the budget allocation requested for Pakistan for FY2013 is $2.4 billion. This includes the $800 million cited in the PCCF, and is meant for assistance to “strengthen democratic and civil institutions that provide a bulwark against extremism, and support joint security and counterterrorism efforts.


The budget documents also outline certifications that the US secretary of State is required to make to various Congress committees before funds such as the Foreign Military Financing Program, PCCF etc. can be allocated.

According to the conditions, the Secretary must certify that Pakistan is cooperating with the US in counterterrorism efforts against the Quetta Shura, Haqqani Network, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Taiba, al Qaeda and other domestic and foreign terrorist organizations. Pakistan must not be supporting terrorist activities against the US or coalition forces in Afghanistan.

Interestingly, a condition includes that the Secretary of State must certify that, “Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies are not intervening extra-judicially into political and judicial processes in Pakistan”

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan allowed supplies to Afghanistan by air route through Pakistan during blockade, reports Express Tribune:

ISLAMABAD: Islamabad publicly admitted Tuesday that it had allowed NATO to use Pakistani airspace to fly supplies into Afghanistan, despite a more than two-month blockade on the border crossings.

“The permission has been given for food items,” a defence ministry official quoted Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar as saying at a function in Islamabad.

“Since the food items were perishable, we have allowed them to transport them by air to Afghanistan.

“We have told them to take the supplies out by air and don’t bring more for the time being,” the official quoted him as saying.

US ambassador to Islamabad, Cameron Munter, last week confirmed that NATO had continued to fly supplies into Afghanistan despite Pakistan’s closure of the border to NATO trucks and oil tankers on November 26.

Relations between Pakistan and the United States sunk to an all-time low after air strikes killed 24 Pakistani soldiers along the Afghan border in an incident that the United States blamed on mistakes made by both sides.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a report in The Atlantic magazine saying that the"State Department has resurrected the idea after repudiating the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter, early on when he pressed for an immediate apology following the incident last November. A Pentagon official, asked about the possibility of a statement of apology or contrition last month, at first said he was unaware there was any discussion going on, then a few days later acknowledged that it was. Now the White House is mulling the language and timing of such a statement, a U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity."

The internal disagreement over whether to assuage the Pakistanis with a face-saving expression of apology or contrition is part of a larger debate within the administration as it puzzles its way through the Afghan endgame. With the United States pushing for talks with the Taliban ahead of a planned withdrawal that is to be phased in starting in 2013, Washington knows that without some help from Islamabad, America could end up bequeathing a huge safe haven to the Taliban in Pakistan, which has sought to support the Islamist group as a strategic asset.

Making matters even stickier, the debate comes in an election season when President Obama is being regularly accused of appeasement and, as Mitt Romney regularly puts it, "apologizing for America." Until now the farthest the U.S. government has gone is to "express our deepest regret" for "the loss of life, and for the lack of proper coordination between U.S. and Pakistani forces that contributed to those losses," according to a Defense Department statement issued after the report.

New rifts have also emerged in the administration over the details of the planned U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. Some White House officials working on the Afghanistan problem were taken aback when, on Feb. 1, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters about U.S. plans for a partial withdrawal from lead combat roles by mid-2013, before even consulting with other NATO officials. While the plan was generally agreed upon within the administration, the details had still not been clarified.

On Wednesday State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, responding to harsh comments about the U.S.-Pakistan relationship from Pakistani Ambassador Sherry Rehman earlier in the day, said that "divorce is not an option with Pakistan. We have strategic interests in common, we have a lot of work to do together." Nuland added: "We're looking forward to the completion of Pakistan's internal review of our military-to-military relationship so we can get back to all the important work we have together."

Riaz Haq said...

Here's US Army Times on the importance of Pakistani routes for withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan:

Cargo lines through Pakistan need to reopen for the U.S. to bring troops and equipment back on schedule as the war draws down, the top general of Transportation Command told a Senate panel Tuesday.

Despite increased support from European, Central Asian and Baltic countries to open the Northern Distribution Network to Afghanistan, the U.S. and allied forces need the Pakistan Ground Line of Communication, or GLOC, as the drawdown in Afghanistan ramps up, Gen. William Fraser said at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

“With the amount of equipment we need to move ... we need the Pakistan GLOC open,” Fraser said. “Because of the large numbers that we are talking about that we need to bring out in a timely manner.”

TRANSCOM moved an average of 40 percent of cargo through a network of truck, water, rail and air routes — approximately 27,000 containers in 2011, he said. While this was an increase of 15 percent from 2010, the U.S. moved more than 35,000 containers through Pakistan by ground transportation before the border was closed in November. The governments that agreed to the Northern Distribution Network have given permission to move armored vehicles and other eligible commodities, but not weapons, Fraser said.

In the meantime, Fraser said, the NDN is adequate and airlift crews are identifying and moving excess equipment from Afghanistan now.

“As every aircraft goes in, if it has pallet positions, if it has capacity on it, then we are making sure we put something on that aircraft and bring it back out,” Fraser said.

TRANSCOM is also working with commercial agencies to get around the closed border. In November, 39 ships with hundreds of containers headed for Afghanistan were diverted to Dubai and Aqaba, Jordan, where they were stored and airlifted into Afghanistan, Fraser said in his testimony.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Bloomberg editorial opinion on Pak parliament's vote on relations with US:

Beyond the drone ban, Parliament resolved to bar the U.S., and other nations, from conducting any overt or covert military operations there. As a rule, of course, sovereign countries don’t allow foreign security agencies to function on their soil without permission. Yet it happens all the time.

The issue is, what are the consequences of their actions, if made public? Parliament’s vote suggests the repercussions will be increasingly painful. That, again, is an argument for the U.S. to tread less heavily on Pakistan. The costs of breaching Pakistan’s sovereignty last year to kill Osama bin Laden were plainly worth it. But can the same be said for the intelligence being pursued by CIA contractor Raymond Davis, who caused a diplomatic furor after killing two Pakistanis on a street in Lahore? We’ll probably never know, but it’s a question we hope the intelligence community is asking.

Pakistan’s Parliament also demanded an “unconditional apology” from the U.S. for the Nov. 25 border clash. Obama, as well as the secretary of State and senior military officials, have already expressed regret and condolences over the loss of life. And the Pakistani military hasn’t invited sympathy with its refusal to participate in the U.S. investigation, its dismissal of the ensuing report blaming a lack of coordination on both sides, and its paranoid charges that the attack was “deliberate at some level.” Still, a clear apology by the Defense secretary would be appropriate given the loss of life; the U.S. military’s responsibility for relying on incorrect maps and failing to communicate timely, accurate information to its counterpart; and the importance of the larger relationship.
Recognizing Sacrifices

That would signal to the Pakistani people that the U.S. military is committed to repairing its relationship with its Pakistani counterpart and recognizes the sacrifices local forces have made in pursuing shared goals, while correctly keeping any blame at the operational rather than the national level.

The parliamentary resolutions do offer one bright spot: They would allow the U.S. to again use Pakistani roads to resupply U.S. troops in Afghanistan with nonlethal equipment. Since the Nov. 25 incident, the U.S. has had to use expensive alternate routes. Parliament did not tie resumption of the traffic to satisfaction on its other decrees. But it might, in the future, or the government might, in its negotiations with the Obama administration. This is an added reason for the U.S. to repair ties with Pakistan before they become irreparable.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a VOA report on Afghan dependence on Pakistan:

Farmers and traders in eastern Afghanistan say that despite a decade of foreign development projects, they remain economically dependent on their neighbors in Pakistan.

The main bazaar in the capital, Jalalabad is crowded with people buying and selling fresh melons, ripe tomatoes and sacks full of onions and potatoes. Fruits and vegetables from all across the country come to this market where it is sold to locals. But due to unreliable electricity and cold storage a lot of Afghan farmers' produce goes just across the border into neighboring Pakistan where it is stored and then re-sold.

"My name is Allah Mohammad," a local vegetable seller says introducing himself. He is selling his tomatoes from one of the many produce carts that line a busy road.

"We have heard there are no storage facilities and electricity. But in Pakistan they have facilities and electricity," he says.

Not far from the market, at the main loading station, onions and potatoes are being inspected and then loaded onto trucks headed for Pakistan. Gul Morad, head of inspection and regional chief for fruit and vegetable traders whose office is above the station says matter-of-factly, that cold storages do exist in the districts.

“Three to four years ago, USAID and DIA built us small cold rooms under the name ‘storages’ - but their capacity is only 4 to 5 tons. For these you have to use generators.” Morad explains. “Even if the generator stops for one hour, the room gets hot and the goods lose their quality.”

USAID says the deserted units do not appear to be theirs. The agency did however help fund Morad’s 24-ton cold-storage which he pays to maintain. The unit runs on both generators and power from the electrical grid and is a key part of the local economy.

Morad says most of time (when market prices go down) farmers and shopkeepers bring their produce here and store it for one or more days - for free. When the market gets better they take it out and sell it.

Local farmers and traders say proper refrigeration means higher profits, because they can store their own produce and make a better return in the off season.

However with too little cold storage, residents now rely on stored produce imported from Pakistan, which can sell for nearly triple the cost.

Many people, like farmer Ihsanullah from Ghawchak in Sukhroad district believe that some of the marked up vegetables are originally from here, but are imported into Pakistan, stored and then sold back into the Afghan market.

“Two things,” Ihsanullah says “potatoes and onions, they go from Kabul into Pakistan and are kept in storage and sent back to us. We sometimes work in the market so I am certain these two things are bought by big traders, stored and sent back.” He says, “our biggest problem here is that we don’t have storage.”

Inspection chief Morad disagrees and says the stored goods that come to Afghanistan are grown in Pakistan.

But both men agree that farmers and consumers both suffer from the lack of local refrigeration.

Agriculture is the main source of income for the country however Afghans say plans to develop the agriculture sector have not been realized. The Afghan government and the international community’s efforts to build sustainable storage and supply reliable electricity have not met expectations

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Pakistani perspective as published by Deutsche Welle:

Pakistan received a severe snub from US President Obama at the NATO summit that recently concluded in Chicago. Pakistani political analyst Naveed Ahmed talks about the reactions in Pakistan and the implications.

Naveed Ahmed is a political analyst and investigative journalist in Pakistan.

DW: How has Pakistan reacted to the summit in Chicago?

Well, there is a clear-cut position that Pakistan is not going to continue any business with the United States or NATO, for that matter, until they offer an apology. And that was clear in the statement given by President Zardari in Chicago. On the face of it, this is the situation and people are buying it. If Zardari has given any commitment, he is not in a position to fulfil it. The reaction is otherwise very calm, no US flags are being burnt. There was a fear that Pakistan may succumb to US pressure, but this NATO summit has proven that Pakistan can withstand the pressure. The foreign minister also said that Pakistan would seek an apology and then look further.

President Obama did not conduct bilateral talks with President Zardari. Does Pakistan see that as a snub? How has the media reacted?

Again, Asif Ali Zardari's departure to Chicago was criticized in Pakistan because it was a last-minute invitation and he should not have gone. In fact, they should have sent the foreign minister there. And if President Obama did not meet Zardari, it is a kind of embarassment for the Pakistan People's Party in the political point-scoring game in parliament. But on the streets, it does not matter because there is a consensus that there will be no business with the US until our concerns or demands are addressed by the American administration.

What demands does Pakistan have?

For NATO relations to normalize, Pakistan is seeking an apology from NATO and the US for the killing of 26 Pakistani soldiers , who died when US troops leading a NATO convoy attacked Pakistani troops last November. Second, the US and NATO should end their drone attacks inside Pakistani territory. Third, there should be a clear-cut agreement as to how and under what conditions Pakistan should allow NATO supplies through its territory. Since Musharraf gave access to NATO troops in 2002 this has taken place through verbal agreements but there is nothing in writing. Pakistan does not earn any transit fees. Pakistan charges about $5000 per container and there is talk that NATO is ready to pay $1500.

What will Pakistan's role be after the NATO troop withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014?

Pakistan is a key player in Afghanistan. If Pakistan is comfortable with the withdrawal and the conditions afterwards that are being mapped out, Pakistan can play a very constructive role. If there are concerns and insecurities, because of greater Indian influence, or foreign troops or the proliferation of weapons inside Pakistani territory, then it will be different. That is why Pakistan is in a situation where it has to assert its position, its presence, so that when the troops exit, the post-exit scenario is not detrimental to Pakistan's interests....,,15967826,00.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Asia Times Op Ed by Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar on Chinese & Russian envoys' visits to Pakistan:

The back-to-back visits to Pakistan this week by China's Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and the Russian president's special envoy for Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, are rich in political symbolism and strategic content.

The consultations came at a time when Pakistan is reeling under pressure from the United States, the future of Afghanistan remains complicated and regional security is in flux.

The timing of the consultations will draw attention - since they were sandwiched between the summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Chicago on May 20-21 and the forthcoming summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Beijing on June 6-7. Afghanistan is a burning issue for both international groupings.
Yang underscored that China will unwaveringly pursue the policy of further strengthening its friendship with Pakistan and is willing to work together to deepen practical cooperation and strengthen the strategic coordination and elevate the partnership to new heights.

Xinhua news agency reported that China and Pakistan have agreed to "strengthen multilateral coordination and to safeguard the common interests of both sides." The reference seems to be to Pakistan's role in the SCO, whose forthcoming summit in Beijing will be attended by Zardari.

While Yang's official visit had a broad-ranging agenda, Kabulov's consultations were focused and purposive. He came to Islamabad primarily to discuss the situation in Afghanistan and the forthcoming visit to Pakistan by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Kabulov is Moscow's ace diplomatic troubleshooter on Afghanistan. The Pakistani accounts quoted him as saying to Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani that "enormous commonalities" existed between Russia and Pakistan on regional issues and bilateral cooperation. Clearly, the reference is to the situation surrounding the Afghan problem, where both Russia and Pakistan have been seeking a bigger role while the US selectively engages them for specific roles.

Putin's visit to Pakistan, which is expected "soon", will be the first by a Russian head of state in the six-decade long history of relations between the two countries. It will consolidate the remarkable makeover in the two countries' relations in the past two to three years.

The fact that Putin picked Pakistan to be one of his first visits abroad after taking over as president in the Kremlin itself testifies to the "mood swing" in the geopolitics of the region. Many trends need to be factored in here.

Russia is gearing up to play an effective role in world affairs. Its assertive stance on Syria and Iran can be expected to extend to Pakistan and Central Asia. Russia kept its participation over the NATO summit on a low-key and saw to it that none of the Central Asian leaders who were invited - from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan - attended either. Meanwhile, Moscow also hosted a summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). Putin is undertaking visits to Belarus, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan during the week ahead and is virtually launching his Eurasian project.
The utter failure of the US strategy in Afghanistan stands exposed in terms of its exceptionalism and the stark absence of a regional consensus. Yang and Kabulov could and should have been the US's best allies in urging Pakistan to work with the international community for an enduring peace in Afghanistan. The paradox is that even in the prevailing situation of high volatility in the US's relations with Russia and China they might well have done that, but without Washington's bidding.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's NY Times story about Salong Pass as choke point on northern supply routes for NATO:

Nowhere is the impact of Pakistan’s ban on NATO truck traffic more visible than here at the top of the Hindu Kush, on one of the only alternative overland routes for supply convoys to reach Kabul and the rest of the country.

For 20 miles north and south of the old Soviet-built tunnel at Salang Pass, thousands of trucks are idled beside the road, waiting for a turn to get through its perilous, one-and-a-half-mile length.

This is the only passable route for heavy truck traffic bringing NATO supplies in from the Central Asian republics to the north, as they now must come.

There are other roads, but they are often single-lane dirt tracks through even higher mountain passes, or they are frequently subject to ambushes by insurgents and bandits. So a tunnel built to handle 1,000 vehicles a day, and until the Pakistani boycott against NATO in November handling 2,000, now tries — and often fails — to let 10,000 vehicles through, alternating northbound and southbound truck traffic every other day.

“It’s only a matter of time until there’s a catastrophe,” said Lt. Gen. Mohammad Rajab, the head of maintenance for the Salang Pass. “One hundred percent certain, there will be a disaster, and when there is, it’s not a disaster for Afghanistan alone, but for the whole international community that uses this road.” He said 90 percent of the traffic now was trailer and tanker trucks carrying NATO supplies.

The tunnel near the top of this 12,000-foot pass is so narrow — no more than 20 feet across at the base, and less toward the top — that the heavily laden trucks often jam as they try to pass one another, lodging in tightly against the sloping, rough-hewn walls. The trucks have to be winched apart and dragged out by heavy equipment.
A tanker driver named Mohammadullah, hauling fuel for a NATO contractor, was eight days out of Kabul and still climbing. He said the drivers often ran out of food and were forced to pay exorbitant prices to vendors who drove up with supplies. He expected the round trip would take him most of a month.

“I’d rather be driving to Kandahar,” he said. Trucks need to have armed guards because of insurgents on that route, he said, “but I’d rather do that than all this waiting.”

The much-shorter Pakistani routes, from seaports like Karachi on better roads, were closed to protest the deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers in an American airstrike. But Pakistan has expressed willingness to reopen the frontier: for a fee of thousands of dollars per truck, compared with $250 previously. “We’re not about to get gouged in the price,” Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said on ABC’s “This Week.”

The Salang Pass tunnel, built in 1964 by the Soviets and never completely finished (it lacks amenities like interior surfacing of the walls and an escape tunnel), has a tragic history. Nine hundred Russians and Afghans reportedly died of asphyxiation in the tunnel in 1982 when a military convoy was trapped inside by an accident or an explosion.

Two years ago, huge avalanches at the southern mouth of the tunnel killed at least 64 people, buried alive in cars and buses.
The only remotely viable alternative route, General Rajab said, is over the Shibar Pass, farther west. It involves a three-day detour, which could be an improvement over Salang these days. However, the military would have to work at improving security on that route, he said — when he recently detoured trucks that way, they were looted before reaching the pass.

Riaz Haq said...

Israeli foreign minister cites US precedent for refusing Turkey apology, according to Jerusalem Post:

f the US adamantly refuses to apologize to Pakistan for the accidental killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers last November, Israel certainly need not say sorry to Turkey for the Mavi Marmara deaths, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said Monday.
“The Pakistanis asked the US to apologize, and the Americans said ‘no way,’” Liberman said in reference to the November incident where US forces accidentally fired on two Pakistani border posts.

The US has since expressed regret for the incident, something Israel has also said it was willing to do regarding the killing of nine Turks on the May 2010 flotilla that aimed to break the blockade of Gaza.

“So when they come to us and pressure us to apologize over the Marmara, because of this or that constraint, sometimes even to best friends you must say ‘no.’ Otherwise, no one will respect you,” Liberman declared.

Liberman said the commandos who boarded the Mavi Marmara and clashed with those on the ship were clearly exercising their rights of self defense. The Turkish pressure on Israel to apologize now is to “deter us from using the legitimate right for self defense,” he said....
Michele Flournoy, who served as the third top official in the Pentagon before stepping down earlier this year, said last week at an Institute for National Security Studies conference in Tel Aviv that it was very important for “Israel to repair its relationship with Turkey.”

Flournoy, who played a key role in shaping US President Barack Obama’s national security policy, hinted that Israel should apologize, saying Turkey was one of the strongest and most influential voices in the region, remained a close and valued NATO ally for the United States, and shared “our interest in preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear weapon state.”

While acknowledging that “she understands that past events have made concrete steps towards reconciliation quite difficult,” Flournoy said “if there is ever a time for Israel to rise above past differences and recriminations with Turkey, now is that time.

“Israel must act more strategically, and I think there is tremendous opportunity to rebuild its partnership with Turkey and with other partners where it can. This is really important at a time of such [regional] uncertainty.”

The Wall Street Journal reported in May that during discussions last December in Washington over whether it should apologize to the Pakistanis, Flournoy suggested language whereby the US would apologize for the “unintentional and tragic” deaths, but would not accept full responsibility. According to the paper, she argued that the “US risked the issue festering.”

No US apology has yet been forthcoming, and The Wall Street Journal quoted a senior administration official as wondering how Washington could apologize to a country that was providing, at least through some parts of its government, tacit support to those attacking US troops.

“This isn’t about politics,” the official is quoted as saying. “This is about the message that would send to our troops and that is what no one in the military or the White House could countenance.”

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Counterpunch piece by Brian Cloghley:

With respect to the Sudeten German problem my patience is now exhausted! I have made Mr Benes an offer, which contains nothing but the realization of what he himself assured us would be done. The decision is in his hands! Peace or war!

Adolf Hitler, Berlin, September 26, 1938

We are reaching the limits of our patience here, and for that reason it is extremely important that Pakistan take action to prevent this kind of safe haven from taking place [sic] and allowing terrorists to use their country as a safety net in order to conduct their attacks on our forces.

Leon Panetta, Kabul, June 7, 2012

So what is Leon Panetta going to do if militant attacks on US forces in Afghanistan continue? Of course it’s easy to blame Pakistan for the outcome of the war begun by America in Afghanistan. After all, somebody has to take the blame for the shambles, and it can’t possibly be Washington. But Mr Panetta and the rest of the blame-shifters had better take care, because if they try to do to Pakistan what Hitler did to Czechoslovakia in 1939 they will find rather stiffer opposition than that offered by the poor bullied Czechs.

Mr Panetta’s complaint is that militants based in Pakistan (mainly tribal Afghans, Arabs of various weird persuasions, and gangs of thugs from the Central Asian Republics) cross into Afghanistan and join their comrades there to conduct attacks on foreign and Afghan forces. But before the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001-2002 there were no Afghan Taliban or other foreign extremists in Pakistan. There were no militant bases in Pakistan’s tribal areas. The region was hardly tranquil, simply because the tribes continued to be as hot-blooded as they have been for centuries, but there was nothing approaching the insurgency that now exists — that was caused entirely by the US invasion of Afghanistan.

Before the US invasion of Afghanistan there had been one single suicide bombing in Pakistan (in 1995, and that was by an Egyptian loony). Last year there were over forty. And since the US invasion of Afghanistan the entire border region has been destabilized and Pakistan’s internal security situation has become dire. In the years after the US invasion of Afghanistan drove Taliban and other militants out of the country the Pakistan army and the para-military Frontier Corps have lost 3,019 soldiers killed in operations against them along the Afghan border. 9,681 have been wounded. (US deaths in Afghanistan: 2,002.)
So, Adolf Panetta, you loud-mouthed bullyboy with eroding patience : Just what are you going to do? Take on the Pakistan army? If you do, you had better expect “full force” against you. I’ve known the Pakistan army for over thirty years and I tell you that every single member of it will fight to the death against any forays you order when you “reach the limits of your patience.”

It’s a pity that you and Obama Hosanna have not the slightest understanding of the front line of combat, with real soldiers. You might alter your views about patience if you had experienced actual fear. But you are both just bullies.

Riaz Haq said...

Senators McCain (R-Az) and Feinstein (D-CA) have both said US should apologize to Pakistan for Salala incident.

Now here's a Counterpunch piece by Brian Cloghley:

With respect to the Sudeten German problem my patience is now exhausted! I have made Mr Benes an offer, which contains nothing but the realization of what he himself assured us would be done. The decision is in his hands! Peace or war!

Adolf Hitler, Berlin, September 26, 1938

We are reaching the limits of our patience here, and for that reason it is extremely important that Pakistan take action to prevent this kind of safe haven from taking place [sic] and allowing terrorists to use their country as a safety net in order to conduct their attacks on our forces.

Leon Panetta, Kabul, June 7, 2012

So what is Leon Panetta going to do if militant attacks on US forces in Afghanistan continue? Of course it’s easy to blame Pakistan for the outcome of the war begun by America in Afghanistan. After all, somebody has to take the blame for the shambles, and it can’t possibly be Washington. But Mr Panetta and the rest of the blame-shifters had better take care, because if they try to do to Pakistan what Hitler did to Czechoslovakia in 1939 they will find rather stiffer opposition than that offered by the poor bullied Czechs.

Mr Panetta’s complaint is that militants based in Pakistan (mainly tribal Afghans, Arabs of various weird persuasions, and gangs of thugs from the Central Asian Republics) cross into Afghanistan and join their comrades there to conduct attacks on foreign and Afghan forces. But before the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001-2002 there were no Afghan Taliban or other foreign extremists in Pakistan. There were no militant bases in Pakistan’s tribal areas. The region was hardly tranquil, simply because the tribes continued to be as hot-blooded as they have been for centuries, but there was nothing approaching the insurgency that now exists — that was caused entirely by the US invasion of Afghanistan.

Before the US invasion of Afghanistan there had been one single suicide bombing in Pakistan (in 1995, and that was by an Egyptian loony). Last year there were over forty. And since the US invasion of Afghanistan the entire border region has been destabilized and Pakistan’s internal security situation has become dire. In the years after the US invasion of Afghanistan drove Taliban and other militants out of the country the Pakistan army and the para-military Frontier Corps have lost 3,019 soldiers killed in operations against them along the Afghan border. 9,681 have been wounded. (US deaths in Afghanistan: 2,002.)
So, Adolf Panetta, you loud-mouthed bullyboy with eroding patience : Just what are you going to do? Take on the Pakistan army? If you do, you had better expect “full force” against you. I’ve known the Pakistan army for over thirty years and I tell you that every single member of it will fight to the death against any forays you order when you “reach the limits of your patience.”

It’s a pity that you and Obama Hosanna have not the slightest understanding of the front line of combat, with real soldiers. You might alter your views about patience if you had experienced actual fear. But you are both just bullies.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a German review by Dr. Ludwing Watzal of a book titled "Pakistan: The US, Geopolitics and Grand Strategies":

The killing of Osama Bin Laden highlighted the already shattered relationship between the American and Pakistani governments. This incursion, the illegal drone war and other encroachments upon the Pakistan’s sovereignty by the US have brought the “special” relationship to square one. Yet, “the post 9/11 US-Pakistan relationship is not as special it is often portrayed as being. It reflects a complex combination of the phenomena of the war on terror, regional alliances and geopolitical realities, and Indian-Pakistani arch rivalries.” The skillful balancing of this political mélange is seen by the US and its Western cronies as a double game. Despite its close relationship with China and its difficult political and geopolitical maneuvering, Pakistan is still perceived as a key Western ally.

The book’s editors, Usama Butt, director of the Institute of Islamic Sociopolitical and Strategic Affair (IISA), and Julian Schofield, deputy director of the Centre d’études des politoques étrangères et de sécurité (CEPES) at the Université du Québec in Montréal, have gathered leading scholars from Pakistan and some Western countries. Even a scholar from the American Enterprise Institute, a neo-conservative think tank, is on board.

The book is divided into two parts: The first one deals exclusively with Pakistan-US relations; the second part discusses Pakistan´s foreign relations with other states. Pakistan’s domestic setting is as complex as its geopolitical situation and cannot be reduced to the decade of the “war on terror” or solely explained by its complicated relation to India. Both sections of the book are based on the paradigm that the country’s foreign policy should not be defined by the war on terror. Beside the US, Pakistan’s staunchest allies are Saudi Arabia and China, and the relations with Iran and Afghanistan are also excellent.

The book leaves the reader with the strong impression that the US Empire is not sensitive enough to the regional interests of its “ally” Pakistan, let alone of other actors. US President Obama’s drone war that causes many more deaths among civilians than among alleged terrorists infuriates the Pakistani people and contributes to the instability of the country. The global war on terror has badly affected the central Asian region. It serves only the hegemonic interests of the US and is directed against China and Russia.

Unfortunately, some authors use the phrase “global war on terror” to describe the havoc that is caused by the US Empire in the region. However, this terminology is a language construction. First, it is not a “war” and secondly, the operations going under this heading are not directed against “terrorists” but aim at US hegemony. The current discussions in the US show that the “drone war” and President Obama’s “hit list” are seen by some pundits as “state terrorism”. Unfortunately, the authors do not render these issues problematic.

Riaz Haq said...

A recent book "Little America: The War Within the War for Afghanistan" by Washington Post reporter Rajiv Chandrashekharan argues that it's failures primarily in Washington rather than Islamabad and Kabul that have hurt US goals in Afghanistan.

Chandrashekaran writes on page 329 of his book: "The reason was not be found in Kabul or Islamabad. It was in Washington: America's bureaucracy had become America's worst enemy."

Here's another excerpt as published in Washington Post:

To Holbrooke, a towering man with an irrepressible personality, brokering a deal with the Taliban was the only viable strategy to end the war.

He was convinced that the military’s goal of defeating the Taliban would be too costly and time-consuming, and the chances of success were almost nil, given the safe havens in Pakistan, the corruption of Karzai’s government and the sorry state of the Afghan army.

Obama told his aides that he was interested in a peace deal, and less than two months after he took office, the president said publicly that he was open to seeking reconciliation with the Taliban, comparing such an effort to a U.S. initiative to work with former Sunni militants in Iraq who were willing to break with al-Qaeda.

His comments alarmed top military and intelligence officials. Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. David H. Petraeus, chief of U.S. Central Command, thought it was too soon even to talk about talking. They wanted to commit more troops first and then talk, but only to Taliban leaders who agreed to surrender. CIA officials argued that the United States could not negotiate with the Taliban until its leadership denounced al-Qaeda.

There was no clear path for Holbrooke to achieve peace talks. The Taliban had no office, mailing address, or formal structure. It was not clear that its leader, the reclusive Mullah Mohammed Omar, wanted to talk — in 2009, the Taliban appeared to be winning — or whether he and his fellow mullahs would accept the United States’ conditions for negotiations: that they renounce violence, break with al-Qaeda and embrace the Afghan constitution.

Even if they did, would the terms be acceptable to the Karzai government? What about Pakistan and other neighboring powers? If Holbrooke was going to have any chance of success, he needed the backing of others in the administration, starting with the president.

But the White House never issued a clear policy on reconciliation during the administration’s first two years. Instead of finding common purpose with Holbrooke, White House officials were consumed with fighting him. Jones and Lute hated the thought of Holbrooke basking in the spotlight as he did after peace in the Balkans. They wanted him out of the way, and then they would chart a path to peace.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Bloomberg Op Ed titled "No More Bullying Pakistan" written by former State Dept official Vali Nasr:

It took eight months, but the U.S. has finally apologized for killing 24 Pakistani soldiers in a firefight on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

With that, the U.S. military is again able to use routes through Pakistan to supply its forces in Afghanistan without paying exorbitant fees. Plus the threat that Pakistan will bar U.S. drone strikes is for now moot.
However, the main implication of the apology, a triumph of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over both the White House and the Pentagon, is that it ends the experiment of the U.S. trying to bully Pakistan into submission.

The clash in November between U.S. and Pakistani forces was a mess, with miscommunication on both sides but fatalities on only one. Pakistan, still seething over the U.S. breach of its sovereignty in the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound, closed U.S. military supply routes to Afghanistan when the U.S. initially refused to apologize. The U.S., in turn, froze $700 million in military assistance and shut down all engagement on economic and development issues. In a further deterioration of ties, the Pakistani Parliament voted to ban all U.S. drone attacks from or on Pakistani territory.
No Sympathy

The Pakistanis held firm in their insistence on an apology. Officials at the Pentagon thought the case didn’t merit one. Many had no sympathy for the Pakistanis, whom they regarded as double-dealers for stoking the insurgency in Afghanistan and providing haven to the notorious extremists of the Haqqani Network. The White House feared that an apology would invite Republican criticism. Throughout the crisis, Clinton and her senior staff argued that the U.S. should apologize. She supported re-engaging with Pakistan to protect a critical relationship while also holding Pakistan accountable for fighting the Taliban and other extremists, a point she has raised in each of her conversations with Pakistani leaders.

Clinton’s recommendations were contrary to the policy the Pentagon and Central Intelligence Agency put in place in early 2011. Relations had soured when the Pakistanis held CIA operative Raymond Davis after he shot two Pakistanis. Frustrated with Pakistan’s foot-dragging on counterterrorism, the two agencies successfully lobbied for a strategy to reduce high-level contacts with Pakistan, shame Pakistan in the news media, and threaten more military and intelligence operations on Pakistani soil like the bin Laden assassination. It was a policy of direct confrontation on all fronts, aimed at bending Pakistan’s will.

It failed. Pakistan stood its ground. Far from changing course, Pakistan reduced cooperation with the U.S. and began to apply its own pressure by threatening to end the drone program, one of the Obama administration’s proudest achievements.
The conclusion: Open conflict with Pakistan was not an option. It was time to roll back the pressure.

The apology is just a first step in repairing ties deeply bruised by the past year’s confrontations. The U.S. should adopt a long-term strategy that would balance U.S. security requirements with Pakistan’s development needs. Managing relations with Pakistan requires a deft policy -- neither the blind coddling of the George W. Bush era nor the blunt pressure of the past year, but a careful balance between pressure and positive engagement. This was Clinton’s strategy from 2009 to 2011, when U.S. security demands were paired with a strategic dialogue that Pakistan coveted. That is still the best strategy for dealing with this prickly ally.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Dexter Filkins' piece in the New Yorker on America's Afghan end game:

President Barack Obama, in his June 22nd speech announcing the beginning of the end of the American war in Afghanistan, couched the conflict in the most constricted terms. This is no great surprise. Obama’s discomfort with the Afghan war is visible whenever he talks about it. Last week, he spoke with a palpable lack of passion, and indicated no long-term commitment to the country. His message was clinical: Osama bin Laden is dead, Al Qaeda is disabled, and American troops can begin coming home. “We are meeting our goals,’’ the President said, in his most expansive description of American progress. Certainly, the large majority of Americans who believe that the war isn’t worth fighting will have little inclination to doubt him.

The President’s terseness had a purpose: it allowed him to skirt a more exhaustive, and dispiriting, discussion of Afghan realities. Two years ago, Obama signed off on the surge, which deployed an additional thirty-three thousand marines and soldiers to Afghanistan. Though the surge is now at its peak, almost every aspect of the American campaign is either deeply troubled or too fragile to justify substantial reductions in military support. It’s true that, with the help of extra forces, the Americans have cleared large areas of Taliban insurgents, many of whom had been operating without opposition. This success has opened the parts of the country that are dominated by Pashtuns—its main ethnic group—to Afghan government control, but it hardly constitutes victory. According to American officers, the level of violence in Afghanistan this year is fifteen per cent higher than it was at this time last year. The insurgents, far from being degraded, appear to be as resilient as ever. And their sanctuaries in Pakistan, where the Taliban leadership resides mostly unmolested, remain more or less intact.

Nor is there any sign that Afghanistan’s Army will be able to maintain control as the Americans leave. Although Afghan forces are growing in number, they are virtually incapable of planning and executing operations on their own. Exactly one Afghan battalion—about six hundred soldiers—is currently classified as “independent.” Ethnic divisions have made the situation even worse: some units, packed with ethnic Tajiks from the north, are said to need translators to operate in the Pashto-speaking areas of southern Afghanistan, where the Taliban predominate. The number of Afghan soldiers who quit or go AWOL remains alarmingly high. Most recruits are illiterate. It is these men, along with members of Afghanistan’s hapless police force, whom Obama expects to take the lead from the Americans three years from now.
For the moment, the prospect of all-out civil war in Afghanistan rests safely on a distant horizon. Even after the thirty-three thousand troops have departed, by the end of 2012, the Americans and their NATO partners will have nearly a hundred thousand soldiers there. The effects of the drawdown might not be visible for years. But the moment of maximum American influence is passing without very much to show for it. “These long wars will come to a responsible end,” the President said toward the end of his speech. That’s an appropriately tortured construction for two badly managed occupations. As a prediction for Afghanistan, though, it seems more like a prayer.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a NY Times' behind-the-scenes story on re-opening of NATO supply lines thru Pakistan:

The breakthrough, American and Pakistani officials say now, was not won through the high diplomacy efforts that dominated headlines through that stretch, but rather through an unconventional back channel run by a low-key duo: Thomas R. Nides, a deputy to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, Pakistan’s finance minister.
“The bean counters did it,” said a senior American official, in comments intended to convey admiration rather than disparagement. The official spoke on condition of anonymity, as did several others interviewed about the talks.

The channel between Mr. Nides and Mr. Shaikh was established in late May amid secrecy after months of mishaps and missed opportunities on the part of more seasoned players. Much of it revolved around the vexed notion of an American apology.

At first Pakistan’s foreign minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, asked the Americans to stall their apology until Parliament met. But by the time she met Mrs. Clinton in London in February, anti-American riots had seized Afghanistan after an episode in which American troops burned copies of the Koran. Mr. Obama’s expression of regret for that caused his aides to caution against a similar gesture to Pakistan, amid fears that the president’s rivals could label him as “apologizer-in-chief.”

A major NATO conference in Chicago in May stirred hopes of a breakthrough. But on the first day of the meeting, an article in The Chicago Tribune by the Pakistani ambassador to Washington, Sherry Rehman, listed five Pakistani demands, annoying Mr. Obama, said senior officials on both sides. “It really set us back,” one American said.

A day later, Mrs. Clinton and President Asif Ali Zardari agreed to the channel between Mr. Nides and Mr. Shaikh. “Make it happen” she told Mr. Nides. Secrecy was paramount: only a tiny group of insiders on both sides was privy to the talks.

Through e-mails, conference calls and discreet meetings, at least four drafts of the American apology went back and forth. The two men played on their personal chemistry and shared business background, often eschewing the traditional posturing of diplomacy. They also had to contend with significant resistance in their own camps.

Pakistan’s army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, rejected early American offers of an apology for deaths “on both sides.” Mr. Nides pushed to bring around skeptics in the White House, where anti-Pakistan sentiment was hardening.

The president and his advisers were swayed, however, by money and geopolitics. The alternate supply route, through Central Asia, was costing the American military an extra $100 million per month, or about $17,000 per truck. That route was also, to some degree, hostage to the dissipating good will of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

Positions shifted. At a barbecue at Pakistan’s Washington embassy residence in late June, the national security adviser, Thomas E. Donilon, signaled to Ms. Rehman that the White House was ready to move. Mr. Shaikh invited Mr. Nides and an American team to Islamabad. On July 1, the two sides gathered in Ms. Khar’s Islamabad home for a fateful five-hour meeting.

It got off to a rocky start. General Kayani opened the meeting with a new draft apology that the Americans had not seen; Mr. Nides exploded with anger in protest, according to several people present, and officials from both sides took a break, venturing into the garden for fresh air.

On resuming, both sides calmed down and reworked the text, line by line. Two days later, in a carefully orchestrated maneuver, Mrs. Clinton phoned Ms. Khar and said “sorry” for the deaths of the 24 soldiers.

Days later, the first trucks rumbled out of a Karachi port, headed for Afghanistan.

Riaz Haq said...

Mary Kay Magistad of NPR's The World reported that China has reacted strongly to the Pentagon report on China's military growth and modernization with its first aircraft carrier, several nuclear submarines and stealth aircraft.

Magistead reported that Xinhua has for the first time talked about China as a global economic power with global interests and it needs a blue water navy to protect a tremendous number of sea-lanes.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Indian Business Standard's report on US leaving some hardware for Pakistan after withdrawal from Afghanistan:

Along with the Taliban, Pakistan will be a massive gainer from America's troop drawdown from Afghanistan by end-2014. A top-level US official, speaking off-the-record, has told Business Standard that Pakistan will get first call on all the American military equipment that costs too much to be transported back to the US.

Washington believes it is obligated to Islamabad for bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table at Qatar, for discussions aimed at reducing violence in Afghanistan, which would smoothen the American troop drawdown this year and the next. Furthermore, Washington relies on Pakistan for overland transit from Afghanistan to Karachi, where heavy equipment is loaded onto cargo vessels bound for the US.

Uzbekistan, which also provides transit routes to the US, had earlier sought to buy the surplus US equipment in Afghanistan. But routing through Uzbekistan, and then over a road and rail network in Central Asia and Russia called the Northern Distribution Network, is four to five times more expensive and time consuming than transiting through Pakistan. Washington has now decided conclusively in favour of Pakistan.

An earlier report in The Washington Post had estimated that the US military would leave behind some $7 billion worth of defence equipment, one-fifth of what is deployed in Afghanistan. US military officials tell Business Standard that aircraft, heavy weapons, vehicles and equipment are likely to be repatriated to the US. Much of what Pakistan will benefit from will be ammunition, vehicles, construction material, air-conditioners, etc.

Much more could be left behind if the situation deteriorates; Taliban resistance would determine what could feasibly be transported. Sceptics in New Delhi point out that Pakistan controls the spigot of violence.

It has not been revealed how much Pakistan would pay for the equipment left behind, but US officials say it would be a fraction of the real value. Given that the US is paying billions of dollars each year to build up the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP), it remains unclear why Washington has not given Kabul the first call on the surplus equipment being left behind.

The cost of repatriation, says Bloomberg News, could be about $7 billion. Danish container giant, Moeller-Maersk A/S, Singapore-based Neptune Orient Lines, and German company, Hapag-Lloyd AG will ship out some 22,000 container-loads of equipment, says US Assistant Secretary of Defence for Logistics, Alan Estevez.

Riaz Haq said...

PESHAWAR: Posters of turbaned Afghan presidential candidates are rolling off the presses in Pakistan, which will be keeping close watch on the election in its strategic backyard.
Helped by cheaper labour and a favourable exchange rate, printers in Peshawar, less than 60 kilometres from the border, have been busy making Afghan election banners.
“We have been swamped with work for the past two weeks because of the Afghan elections. One candidate has asked me to print 200,000 posters,” said printer Mohammad Sajid.
Business links with Afghanistan have grown in recent years and analysts say Pakistan wants a stable northwestern neighbour, shifting from the interference of the past.
Fear of encirclement by arch-rival India led generations of Pakistani military thinkers to view Afghanistan as a zone of potential risk – and thus legitimate space for covert intervention.
Afghan officials still regularly accuse Pakistan of colluding with militants, most recently over an assault on a luxury Kabul hotel that left nine people dead.
Pakistan vigorously denies the claims and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has worked hard to improve ties with President Hamid Karzai, who is stepping down after serving the maximum two terms in office.
“I think this change started in the previous government and Pakistan sticks to the policy because probably they have realised this ‘one favourite’ policy has been a disaster,” author and defence analyst Imtiaz Gul of Islamabad’s Centre for Research and Security Studies told AFP.
During the last Afghan presidential election, some Pakistani officials were more favourably disposed towards incumbent Karzai, who shared a good rapport with his then-Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari.
This time, however, Islamabad has been careful not to side with any candidate in Afghanistan’s first ever democratic transition of power.
Pakistan may be reluctant to antagonise whoever might emerge victorious by backing an opponent, but as Gul noted, it also does not have an obvious ally among the three leading candidates.
Zalmai Rassoul is seen as the preferred choice of Karzai, with whom Islamabad’s relations are at a low ebb. Former minister Abdullah Abdullah draws support from the Tajik ethnic group, who have not favoured Pakistan, and economist Ashraf Ghani has “no connection” with Islamabad, Gul said.
Though it may not have a candidate of choice, Pakistan remains a significant player in the election because its border areas serve as a rear base for the Taliban, who have vowed to disrupt the ballot and already claimed a series of attacks.
“They (the Pakistani government) want peace and stability on the Afghan border because it has a direct impact on peace and security in Pakistan,” said Saifullah Khan Mehsud, an expert on Pakistan’s restive tribal border regions at the FATA Research Centre.
Pakistan also fears a new wave of Afghan refugees, who currently number some 1.6 million having fled in the aftermath of the withdrawal of Soviet forces in 1989.
While the refugees were able to vote in 2004, no arrangements have been made this time around.
“We’re frustrated, we’d like to have a say about the future of our country,” said Haji Jumaa Gul, an elderly man at a refugee camp in Peshawar, who says the situation at home is still too volatile to return.

Riaz Haq said...

Father of #Orlando shooter hosted political show on #Afghanistan-#Pakistan issues, #OrlandoShooting via Reuters

Omar Khatab, the owner of the California-based satellite channel Payam-e-Afghan, said in an interview that Seddique Mateen occasionally bought time on his channel to broadcast a show called "Durand Jirga," which focused in part on the disputed Durand Line, the frontier between Afghanistan and Pakistan demarcated by the Indian subcontinent's former British rulers.


Khatab said Seddique Mateen's political views were largely anti-Pakistan. A YouTube channel under Mateen's name had more than 100 videos posted between 2012 and 2015.

One of the videos refers to the "killer ISI" - the acronym for Pakistan's main military-run intelligence service - and says the agency is the "creator and father of the world's terrorism."

U.S. officials have accused Pakistani intelligence of backing violence against U.S. targets in Afghanistan, although Pakistan denies the allegations.

U.S. officials cautioned that they had no immediate evidence of any direct connection between the Florida attack and Islamic State or other foreign extremist group, nor had they uncovered any contacts between Omar Mateen and any such group.

Fifty-three people were wounded in the rampage. It was the deadliest single U.S. mass shooting incident, eclipsing the 2007 massacre of 32 people at Virginia Tech university.

Seddique Mateen interviewed Ghani in January 2014, eight months before Ghani became president, according to a video posted on his YouTube channel. The interview touched on economic development and youth unemployment in Afghanistan. Khatab said Mateen conducted the interview in Kabul and brought it to California for broadcast.

During the interview Mateen praised Ghani but by the following year had changed his views, apparently angered by Ghani's outreach to Pakistan in his bid to start peace talks with the Taliban. In a 2015 video, Mateen declared his own candidacy for the Afghan presidency, even though there was no election at that time.

In the videos, he wears a Western suit and tie and speaks Dari, a dialect of Persian spoken in northern Afghanistan. He harshly criticizes Ghani's policies both at home and abroad and lashes out at Pakistan, its intelligence service, former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and some senior Afghan government officials and jihadist figures.

In a February video on his Facebook page, he addresses Taliban members and castigates them for being the "servants" of the ISI.

In a June 11 video posted on Facebook, Mateen is dressed in military fatigues and says Afghanistan must "punish the traitors."

"I wish a hero one day removes Ashraf Ghani's turban and slaps this crazy man," he said in the video. "This traitor has rolled up his sleeves to destroy our country."

On Twitter, Ghani condemned the Orlando attack and called it an "act of terror."