By NDN routes and more
Since the closure of NATO supply routes via Pakistan (officially called the PAK GLOC) in late November, it has been assumed that the US has compensated for its closure by using the supply routes through Central Asia (officially called the NDN) and by moving supplies through air. While this is indeed true, the details of how it has happened are interesting.
This comes from the testimony [pdf] of General William Fraser, Commander, United States Transportation Command to the US Senate Armed Service Committee.
In 2011 more than 35,000 containers were delivered on the PAK GLOC by surface transportation. When open, the PAK GLOC remains the quickest and most cost-effective route.
The NDN provides an alternative route to the PAK GLOC for sustainment cargo to Afghanistan. Over the past year, we moved an average of 40 percent of all cargo in support of OEF through the NDN’s multiple truck, water, rail, and air routes in an expanding distribution network. … In 2011 a total of 27,000 containers were delivered by surface transportation on the NDN, an increase of 15 percent from 2010.
But what is really interesting is that many stores being flown in to Afghanistan are actually being picked from commercial ports in the neighbourhood. This is how 39 ships were diverted from the Karachi port to Dubai and Aqaba after November.
Multimodal hubs proved invaluable when the PAK GLOC routes were no longer available for use in late November. Several hundred containers from 39 different ships bound for forces in Afghanistan were diverted to Dubai and Aqaba where they were stored and then airlifted as needed into Afghanistan to ensure sustained support to combat operations.
It is, however, not the end of US dependency on Pakistan. More than the need to supply troops in Afghanistan, US needs Pakistan supply routes to bring equipment out of the theatre due to the impending drawdown in Afghanistan.
“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.”[Army Times]
Of course, Pakistan is equally desperate to reopen the NATO supply routes. Primarily for the financial benefits it brings to the Pakistan Army’s National Logistics council but also to recreate the leeway it had over the US by threatening to shut these routes. With the fig-leaf of a parliamentary approval to reopen these supply lines a given now, it is just a matter of a couple of weeks before things return to the pre-November state.