CRF Blog

From Pakistan to Afghanistan

In From Pakistan to Afghanistan, U.S. Finds Convoy of Chaos, Bloomberg Businessweek reports on how the U.S. gets supplies to troops in Afghanistan now that Pakistan has shut down the best route.

U.S. and Allied forces in Afghanistan get the bulk of their supplies in two ways. The first is the Northern Distribution Network, a web through Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia that crosses through at least 16 countries, using a combination of roads, railway, air, and water to move supplies in from the north. The chain can be complex and circuitous. One path through the network, for example, might involve military cargo that arrives by sea in Istanbul. From there it travels the width of Turkey on truck and crosses the northern border into Poti, Georgia. In Georgia the equipment goes by rail to Baku in Azerbaijan, where it’s loaded onto a ship bound for the Kazakh Port of Aktau, across the Caspian Sea. Then it’s put on trucks for the 1,000-mile ride through Kazakhstan, then a train through Kyrgyzstan and, finally, into Afghanistan.

 The second passage to Afghanistan, known as Pakistani Lines of Communication, begins at the port of Karachi and continues on one of two land routes, north toward the logistical hub at Bagram Airfield or west toward Kandahar. It has always been the primary option for American forces: It’s the shortest and cheapest, requires only one border crossing, and minimal time on the road inside Afghanistan. Nearly 60,000 trucks drive more than 1,200 miles through the length of Pakistan every year carrying supplies and fuel. According to varying figures provided by U.S. and NATO forces, 40 percent to 60 percent of all military supplies used by coalition forces in Afghanistan come through Pakistan. [more]