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جمعہ، 5 اگست، 2011

The umbilical cord of NATO

A calibrated approach be adopted to de-escalate on the war on terror and each drone attack or incursion shall cost the NATO in the severance of their logistic tail for three days, as a quid pro-co to the unilateral strike/violation. Otherwise, enough is enough with this Alliance of inconvenience.

Brig (retd) Said Nazir Mohmand

‘Amateurs discuss strategy while professionals talk logistics.’ 

The truth of this statement has been highlighted by numerous events in the recorded history and amply demonstrated in the conduct of recent warfare. The myth regarding Russia; that it cannot be conquered by external power, was tenable due the fact, that the logistic chain cannot be maintained at longer distances and for a prolonged period of times. The inference drawn is that distances and maintenance/sustenance periods are the rider clauses of any logistic planning. The US occupation of Afghanistan on the pretext of War on Terror, and the presence of almost 170,000 Extra Regional Forces and an additional around 50,000 foreign logistic and security personnel including infamous Blackwater have so far devoured more than three trillion US dollars. The sustenance level is around 3,500 tons per day for the foreign security elements. They require almost one and a half million litres of fuel, oil and lubricants to steam their war machine on daily bases. The surge in logistics gets a boost in operation like Marjah and every so often planned and dropped Kandahar offensive till the drawdown. The destruction, burning, loot, pillage and diversion of NATO’s supplies in route take a sizable piece of NATO’s cake. The NATO main supply route passes through Pakistan via Karachi—Torkham/ Chaman border towns and then up to Kabul and Kandahar respectively. The main and then the twin routes are passing through the volatile provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, FATA and Balochistan, exposed to subversion and interdiction at the hands of US/NATO resisting forces. The safe passage of these trucks is captive to the check posts, taxes, and extortion of Afghan warlords, tribal chieftains and Taliban, up to their final destination. All these levies are paid in US dollars by the US/NATO Forces or support companies. 

The logistic need is so large and dominant that it requires a sustained, continuous and uninterrupted supply chain to feed the armies which marches on their bellies; and to fuel the burning exhausts of tanks and gun ships puffing smoke in the gusty winds of Afghanistan. The fact of the matter is that 70 % of these supplies are routed though Pakistan and only 25% is through the Northern Distribution Network and the remaining 5% is through air cargo. The supply chain through the Northern Distribution (ND) is not only cost prohibitive by three times but unviable in time and space dimensions. The road communication network in Northern Afghanistan is long, sluggish for heavy cargo and more prone to interdiction, loot and plunders due to longer exposures on route. Russia still feel the headache of traversing this route during their occupation of Afghanistan, then why NATO should not learn from others mistakes. It is a geo-strategic compulsion that the logistic support for the war on terror is subject to the Pakistan’s sea, ground and air space traverse. So, by implication Pakistan holds the key to the NATO operations in Afghanistan. If the chips are down to the level of parting the ways, then NATO should discuss strategy, while Pakistan should profess logistics. The adage will assert itself again and again. General William Fraser, Commander US Transportation Command told the Senate Armed Services Committee at his confirmation hearing that they are working on reducing their dependency on supply routes in Pakistan by placing more dependence on the ND network and air cargo. The US logisticians have an ambitious logistic undertaking to bring down the dependence via Pakistan to 35%, almost half of the present material bulk and load. The US logistic wizards have been working on this logistic flexibility since the fissures became visible in the US–Pak nexus in the war on terror due to Raymond Davis episode and 2nd May unilateral raid by US Navy Seals in Abbottabad. As the end game in the war on terror is visible and the transition process has got a kick start in one form or the other, therefore the extra load is to be jettisoned and the allies be abandoned as liability in the American tradition. It does not require a rocket science to understand the American scheme of things in the region. Their objectives and goals are to be seen in the perspective of double game, cloak and dagger, imply and deny and finally the stick and carrot technique being applied and pursued with all the tools available at their disposal. Though, the empire is receding on the war on terror in Afghanistan but wants a face saving in the form of change role from occupation to a patronage (a protectorate Afghanistan) and from large force presence to a power basin in the form of air bases for future use as a long stick in the region. In the geo-strategic perspective create an elbow space for its regional ally India to manage the affairs of Afghanistan and CARs and contain China by implication. The US will still bid on the Northern Alliance to secure for them a role bigger than their size in the post occupation Afghanistan for towing their lines and keeping the US tail clean and secure from disruption. Such an arrangement will slowly erode the Afghan nationalism, keep Iran at a bay as a lured stakeholder and accrue the dividends of balkanization by keeping the ethnic divide alive and functional. The post exit stratagem will leave the southern and mostly eastern Afghanistan in a state of flux with perpetual negative effects on Pakistan. The mayhem in FATA will continue at the cost of Pakistan’s stability and economic growth.

 To meet the end game with little scathing and maximum advantage the American logisticians have drawn the lines to reduce their dependence on Pakistan and lessen the leverage available to Pakistan under the present logistic arrangements. Their approach is two prongs, one to reduce the size of war machine and second to explore and pipeline new and secure routes. The race is against the time, as evident from the question of Senator John McCain from General Fraser, “how long it would take you to adjust to keep the same level of logistics into Afghanistan”? The inference drawn from the diversion of logistics routes is that the sooner they achieve that, the earlier will they abandon Pakistan. The US will keep Pakistan engaged at low level strategic plinth till their objectives are fulfilled in the next couple of years. The leverage Pakistan enjoys in the severance of NATO’s umbilical cord is just a matter of time, if not taken advantage in the limited time and space dimensions the umbilical cord may become that of a still-baby. The storage capacity of Extra Regional Forces in Afghanistan is limited to weeks not months, therefore the noose around the supply chain be kept tight till they renounce drones attacks, all sorts of incursions and pay for the damages caused to our main road communication infrastructure. A calibrated approach be adopted to de-escalate on the war on terror and each drone attack or incursion shall cost the NATO in the severance of their logistic tail for three days, as a quid pro-co to the unilateral strike/violation. Otherwise, enough is enough with this Alliance of inconvenience.

(Frontier Post)
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