Logistical Balance Being Struck in Afghanistan

Afghanistan’s geography, weather, security, and limited transport infrastructure present much larger obstacles for planners than what they faced in Iraq in 2011, said Scott Anderson, US Central Command’s deputy director for logistics and engineering. Kuwait, what Anderson called “the catcher’s mitt” for supply and rolling stock coming out of Iraq, has no corollary with Afghan operations. “You can’t just go next door to Pakistan or up into Uzbekistan and park,” he said. “Once movement begins, you have to keep moving… until (the shipment) gets home to the US.” Agreements are not in place to channel a growing amount of retrograde through Pakistan, he said, which has ample capacity to support the drawdown. Currently, the Northern Distribution Network, which goes through the Hindu Kush mountains and transverses several former Soviet republics in Central Asia, only supports about four percent of retrograde equipment. Most US forces operate in eastern Afghanistan now, Anderson noted, and it would be prohibitively expensive to send them out through the northern passage—particularly in the winter months. However, he said he is optimistic the drawdown remains on path to meet President Obama’s goal of 34,000 troops in country by February 2014 (the current force in country stands around 60,000). (AFPS report by Donna Miles)