Logistics: Screw The Khyber Pass

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November 26,2008: The Taliban are trying to cut the U.S./NATO supply line from Pakistan to Afghanistan. To do this they have to halt the truck traffic going through the Khyber pass, which is the main road from Pakistan to landlocked Afghanistan. Some 75 percent of the supplies for foreign troops come via this road. The rest are flown in, or come via Russian and Central Asian railroads.

Normally, about 700 large trucks a day make the Khyber run, but several times this year, trucks have been attacked by Taliban gunmen, and destroyed, stolen or looted. This has halted traffic for as long as a week. This has not hurt U.S. or NATO troops, who, as is the military custom, maintain reserves of all supplies.

Moving goods across the border is a major business for Pakistan, and vital to the economy of Afghanistan. So both countries have responded to the Taliban threat by moving more troops and police in to guard the road. Local tribes have also sent more armed men along the route, as they have long done, to go after anyone who threatens the vital trade, and the money they get out of it.

Meanwhile, NATO and the U.S. have negotiated with Russia to allow supplies to move to Afghanistan via Russian rail lines and those of Central Asian nations. These only go as far as the Afghan border. There are no railroads in Afghanistan. Thus from the Uzbek border, the freight containers would have to be trucked south to where most of the U.S. and NATO troops are stationed. The U.S. is seeking a Russian contractor to arrange for the movement of 50,000 freight containers a year via the trans-Siberian railroad. Afghans would have the opportunity of forming trucking companies to move the containers south, along with civilian cargo that could also move in and out of the existing rail yard on the Uzbek border. This would amount to a large loss of business for Pakistani transportation firms, and is an incentive for the Pakistanis to protect the traffic going through the Khyber pass.

 


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