CENTCOM Logistics Nightmare
in Afghanistan is Just Starting
A January 2009 GAO report on Defense Logistics states that “the availability of spare parts and other critical supply items affects the readiness and operational capabilities of U.S. military forces, and the supply chain can be a critical link in determining outcomes on the battlefield.” Well, partly correct but not complete.
DoD has been keeping its optimistic stance about logistics problems and hence fails to see the big picture. Now, when the closure of Manas base has become a reality DOD and especially CENTCOM has started to panic. This is also a lesson for NATO. Who gives this lesson? Russia.
On 4 February 2009 an extraordinary session of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation [CSTO] and an extraordinary meeting of the Interstate Council of the Eurasian Economic Community [EurAsEC] was held in Moscow. So to say a military political alliance.
The main theme of the CSTO session was the creation of the Collective Rapid Reaction Force.
Here is what Medvedev said during the press conference following the meeting: “The Collective Rapid Reaction Force should be an effective, all-purpose instrument that can be counted on to realise security objectives throughout the CSTO. And these would include resisting military aggression, conducting special operations to eliminate terrorists and extremists, the fight against organised crime and drug trafficking, as well as dealing with the consequences of natural and industrial disasters…..we agreed that it must be very well trained, large enough to do its job, well-equipped, supplied with the most modern military equipment, and generally effective. As far as fighting potential is concerned, it needs the same sort of training as the troops of the North Atlantic Alliance.
we agreed to create a full-fledged, important, well-trained collective forces that will actually work together, be under a unified command if necessary and will be highly mobile. …. Russia is ready to contribute one of its divisions and one brigade to the force, which should give you an idea of the scale: this is to be a serious fighting force. ……Once again let me reiterate that we must move from rapid deployment on paper to a real military force, to the real Collective Rapid Reaction Force. Our decisions were taken with this aim and should be understood in this sense.”
Global Insights made the following comment about those meetings:’ How will the stronger military and economic integration within the seven member states affect relations with the other CIS participants: Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Turkmenistan, and Moldova? Given the neutral status of the latter two and pro-NATO inclinations in the first two, they are not likely to join the military alliance any time soon. The documents signed yesterday are only a step towards Russia's ideal vision of its position in the post-Soviet space, but it is nevertheless rather remarkable, and brave.”
A day before the CSTO-EurAsEC meeting, Medvedev met with Kyrgiz president. In the press conference following Russian-Kyrgyzstani talks, Medvedev said : “We discussed today the various opportunities for expanding all the different ties between our countries…. These include geological exploration projects, including fossil fuels prospecting and exploration in the Republic of Kyrgyzstan, modernising Kyrgyzstan’s oil and gas industry and electricity sector, and cooperation in the mining industry and in processing agricultural goods. ….. According to the documents we have just signed, Russia will accord Kyrgyzstan loans for a total $2 billion and will provide $150 million in financial aid. ….. we have just concluded an intergovernmental agreement on construction of the Kambaratinskaya Hydroelectric Power Station-1 in Kyrgyzstan. “
Well, this is not the whole story of course, the most important thing was the announcement (official) closure of the US Manas Air Bas. President Bakieve made the following remarkes: “back in 2001, when real military operations were underway in Afghanistan, operations using artillery, military aircraft and so on. In other words, a real war was underway. At that time, Kyrgyzstan took the decision to offer its territory in order to help in the fight against international terrorism. I think the Republic of Kyrgyzstan has made a big contribution to combating international terrorism over these years. We did not send our soldiers, but we made our territory available. By the way, at that time, the idea was that this would be for one or two years at the most, but eight years have passed since then……. over this time …. we discussed the issue of economic compensation for Kyrgyzstan for use of the base many times with our American partners. Unfortunately, however, we failed to reach an understanding with the United States. For three years now, we have been talking about the need to revise the terms of the agreement and settle the issue of economic compensation, which at present does not satisfy Kyrgyzstan at all, but the United States has not shown understanding. That is the purely economic side of the issue. ……just a few days ago, the Government of Kyrgyzstan decided that the time has come to close this military base on our country’s soil.”
Since the closure of an important base in Uzbekistan in 2005, Manas has played a key role as a troop transit and fuel supply (including aircraft refueling) for US air and ground troops in Afghanistan. Most of the supplies, including fuel, to Afghanistan go through Pakistan. And there are not that many countries bordering Afghanistan.
Source: U.S. CENTCOM
According to AFP news Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon said his country was ready to allow the transit of humanitarian and commercial supplies (including construction materials, medicines, fuel and water) to Afghanistan by road.
If Tajik offer is not taken the US military will have a really big pain in logistics supports to troops in Afghanistan. There are news coming recently that Russia granted transit rights to non-lethal U.S. military supplies headed to Afghanistan. Russia had opened a corridor for Germany to transit goods to Afghanistan last year. The problem is that supplies from Russia must transit Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
What is the real problem: Fuel supplies Pakistan is already having problems. As long as no reliable and secure road transport routes are found from neighboring countries, fuel supplies to Afghanistan must be delivered by air. This means that fuel costs will skyrocket.
Defense Logistics Agency is already looking for supplier of fuel to Afghanistan (or see here) and also trucking services to move fuel within Afghanistan
The visit of United States Central Command chief David Petraeus to Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan in January 2009 to reach agreements for opening new supply routes through their territories for the coalition forces in Afghanistan was too late. And with no concrete result.
The ability of US forces to operate in Afghanistan is based on logistics. The US military planners should read again George Thorpe’s Pure Logistics, bible of military logistics profession. He said back in 1917 that “every strategical and every tactical problem should be solved logistically to determine what measures logistical resources will afford.” It seems that the US military planners think otherwise.