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U.S. Arrogance Triples Fuel Prices for Troops in Afghanistan

Most days, writing about energy issues is less interesting than watching paint dry, as a mind-numbing procession of barrels per day, investment infrastructure costs and bilateral memos of understanding make one wish that their current topics was Britney Spears.

But every now and again, a news item illuminates the landscape like a star shell fired over a midnight battlefield.

Such an event occurred late last week when Vice Admiral Mark Harnitchek stated on 27 June that logistical supplies for U.S. and NATO International Security Assistance Forces in Afghanistan costs three times as much as routes through Pakistan.

Harnitchek told a group of defense reporters that transporting a container from the United States to Afghanistan now costs about $20,000.

Why the price “surge?”

Because on 26 November 2011 a NATO aerial assault on two Pakistani border posts in Mohmand Agency in Pakistan's turbulent NorthWest Frontier Province killed 24 Pakistani soldiers on Pakistani soil.

Islamabad promptly sealed its border with Afghanistan to NATO supplies after the allied strikes and demanded both an apology and increased fees for transit.

Pakistan initially let U.S./ISAF/NATO shipments transit from Karachi to the Afghan border for free, but in 2010 began charging $250 per container.

According to Nesar Ahmad Nasery, the deputy head of Pakistan’s Torkham Customs, around 1,000 trucks crossed into Afghanistan on a daily basis, nearly 300 of which were NATO contractors carrying NATO supplies in sealed containers, with each oil tanker having a capacity of 13,000-15,000 gallons.

Anticipating trouble with Islamabad, beginning in February 2009 the U.S. military shifted its logistics operations to a the Northern Distribution Network (NDN), a 3,212 mile-long railway link, running from Latvia's Riga Baltic port through Russia and Kazakhstan terminating in Uzbekistan's Termez on the Afghan border.

And fuel is an integral part of the logistics chain - the Marines based in Afghanistan alone consume 800,000 gallons a day of fuel. In October 2010 Admiral Michael Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that fossil fuels are the number one import into Afghanistan, with U.S. soldiers using up 300,000 barrels of oil per day.

Now supplies, after being offloaded in Uzbekistan’s southern city of Termez, are shunted onto trucks and sent into Afghanistan via the old Soviet-built tunnel at Salang Pass, a mile and a half-long. A tunnel built to handle 1,000 vehicles a day for the Soviet Afghan incursion is now attempting to pass 10,000 vehicles daily, alternating northbound and southbound truck traffic every other day. Salang Pass maintenance director, Afghan Lt. Gen. Mohammad Rajab, said simply, “It’s only a matter of time until there’s a catastrophe. One hundred percent certain, there will be a disaster, and when there is, it’s not a disaster for Afghanistan alone, but for the whole international community that uses this road.”

And now?

Pakistan demanded both an apology and that the cost of trucks and containers to Afghanistan will now increase to $5,000 apiece, an increase that Arizona Republican Senator John McCain, a leader of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has labelled “extortion.” McCain fulminated, "We can't look at aid (to Pakistan) in that light. It's now becoming a matter of principle."

In a “Joint Statement by Departments of State and Defense,” “Secretaries Clinton and Panetta have been closely monitoring reports of the cross-border incident in Pakistan today.  Both offer their deepest condolences for the loss of life and support fully NATO’s intention to investigate immediately.”

Well, on 3 July Pakistan got roughly half of what it wanted. In a posting on the U.S. State Department website, a “Statement by Secretary Clinton on her Call With Pakistani Foreign Minister Khar” reported, “This morning, I spoke by telephone with Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar. I once again reiterated our deepest regrets for the tragic incident in Salala last November. I offered our sincere condolences to the families of the Pakistani soldiers who lost their lives. Foreign Minister Khar and I acknowledged the mistakes that resulted in the loss of Pakistani military lives. We are sorry for the losses suffered by the Pakistani military. We are committed to working closely with Pakistan and Afghanistan to prevent this from ever happening again.”

Clinton continued, “In addition, I am pleased that Foreign Minister Khar has informed me that the ground supply lines (GLOC) into Afghanistan are opening. Pakistan will continue not to charge any transit fee in the larger interest of peace and security in Afghanistan and the region.”

And the transit fees? The Pakistani press is reporting that “Islamabad is looking to more than double the (previous) payments, which could earn the country up to $1 million a day.”

Oh, and that “The United States is also understood to have guaranteed payment of at least $1.1 billion should the borders reopen, as compensation for fighting militants.”

So, how much did the Pakistani shutdown cost the U.S.? Only a mere additional $100 million a month for increased NDN transit fees, according to Panetta, or roughly $700 million.

Hardly surprising that in the “Department of Defense FY 2013 Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) Request,” Harnitchek said of resupplying Afghanistan, "This is the logistics challenge of our generation."

Thank goodness American taxpayers are so understanding.

By. John C.K. Daly of Oilprice.com

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Leave a comment
  • Bob Berke on July 06 2012 said:
    The entire war is a national disaster for the US, where the costs of logistics alone is one of the secrets kept from the American public. It's long past time to get out. There's nothing to be gained by waiting until 2014 and so much more to lose.
  • Snaproll on July 07 2012 said:
    We killed 24 Pakistani soldiers and it took us this long to even apologize ? When the story mentions our arrogance they were on point. Because we have the ability to kill people, anywhere on the planet, we think that gives us the right. And we call Iran, a country that has never started a war, or occupied someone else land, a rogue nation ?
  • martin on August 16 2012 said:
    to snaproll's comment about iran not starting anything, they did enter the us embassy in tehran back in 1979, and take many us citizens as hostages, they fund terrorist groups such as hezbollah, repeatedly call for the destruction of the U.S. and isreal, go re-educate yourself snaproll.
  • Truth on December 02 2012 said:
    Thanks God, the world is stupid enough that is accepting the US Dollar as reserve currency. Complimets go to the Fed for printing enough money to keep these wars running (tax payers my ass). Politicians? War is profitable. To who? the riches - not you son. Those who sell arms, import fuel from Iraq, and other middle eastern countries... Wake up, it is morning. The tax is only 1% of the total government spending. Call the Economist for a report on this. Good.
  • Ashab on December 03 2013 said:
    To martin's comment bashing snaproll.. Iran's people did entered us embassy a long back. So what??
    Are u trying to compare the "Deeds" of US with Iran or any other nation on this planet. Have u even realized the only thing that US is good at.
    How f**ked up are you any way?

    Okay peace and freedom for america means war(includes financial/cultural/mental..etc as well) and genocide(or guiding it).

    @Martin.. how could one wake up a man who acts sleeping.

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