Crunch Time

Unless Pakistan reopens its over-land supply routes to the United States, it’s going to be difficult to meet President Obama’s 2014 timeline for withdrawal from Afghanistan, said Marine Corps Maj. Gen. John Toolan, former commander of Afghanistan’s Regional Command-Southwest. Roughly half of the Marine Corps’ equipment is based in Afghanistan and it’ll be a challenge to get it all out of the land-locked country in the next two years, Toolan told defense reporters in Washington, D.C., on April 24. None of the options, really, are looking too promising, he said. The marines’ heavy MRAPs and armored vehicles simply can’t make the trip by ship, said Toolan. That leaves, as one option, the Northern Distribution Route, a land route that traverses Central Asia and is ripe with “pilfering” and “all kinds of problems,” he said. Airlift is the second option, but it’s extremely expensive, he noted. Last year, roughly 35 percent of the equipment going into Afghanistan moved through Pakistan on land routes that the Pakistanis have since closed, he said. “If they want us out of there by 2014, the Pakistanis have got to open up their lines or we just won’t be able to get out of there on time,” asserted Toolan, who just returned in March from a year-long deployment to Afghanistan.