Logistical nightmare: Russia leads NATO out of Afghan trap

US military personnel load gear onto a plane bound for Afghanistan at the Manas Transit Center some 30kms from Bishkek (AFP Photo/Vyacheslav Oseledko

The vulnerability of the recently reopened Pakistani transit route supplying NATO troops in Afghanistan has been a headache for over a decade. But the real problem will emerge once troops start to withdraw – with Russia ready to shoulder the burden.

Moscow has opened the combined transport transit route to supply 130,000 allied troops in Afghanistan. In the face of the coalition forces’ withdrawal from Afghanistan, NATO would be severely dependent on the “northern route” to evacuate servicemen and countless war materials accumulated in the country since 2001.

Despite reopening the transit via Pakistan on Thursday, the supply route through former Soviet Central Asian republics and Russia would continue to play an increasingly mercurial role for NATO operations in Afghanistan.The reality on the ground has become increasingly clear over the last seven months as the US and Pakistan remained locked in a political standoff over a deadly American air strike incident that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers last November.

From that point on, the Pakistani borders were sealed off to coalition transit.

To avoid shipment disruptions, US military logisticians had to shift up to 60 per cent of the supplies to northern routes via Russia, with the rest of the cargo having been delivered by air.

Reportedly, the “Russian route” is about three times more expensive than the shorter Pakistani one, but the air freight from Afghanistan is ten times more expensive. Reportedly, the shift to the “Russian route” has been costing the US an additional $100 million a month against previous payments to Pakistan.


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