With or Without Pakistan

It is costing the Defense Department an additional $100 million a month to drawdown troops in Afghanistan and resupply those still on the ground there since Pakistan closed its over-land supply routes last year. Still, that’s no reason to give in to Pakistan’s exorbitant price hikes, said Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, during a June 14 meeting with defense reporters in Washington, D.C. “We have to avoid caving in to what I consider blackmail by Pakistan,” said Levin. He was referring to Pakistan’s demand for $5,000 per shipping container, up from roughly $250 before the freeze. “That’s 20 times more. We can’t give in to that,” said Levin. Marine Corps Maj. Gen. John Toolan, a former commander in Afghanistan, said in April the failure to open the Pakistan supply routes would make it almost impossible to meet President Obama’s 2014 timeline for the US military’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. However, Levin said he remains optimistic. Levin, who recently returned from a trip to Afghanistan, said a recent deal that will allow the United States to transit troops and supplies through neighboring Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan, would alleviate those issues and bring down the cost of the withdrawal.