20 July 2012

NATO Supply Routes and Why Leaving Will Be Harder Than Going In

Foreign Affairs magazine has a great article about the logistics of the exit from Afghanistan, and this excerpt includes a map that should scare folks who realize how much stuff we have to move.

About halfway between Kabul and Kunduz lies the Salang Pass. NATO trucks have no option but to drive through this tunnel, but, at an elevation of over 12,000 feet, it is a deathtrap. Built in 1964 by the Soviets, it was designed to handle 1,000 vehicles a day. During the recent closure of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, some 10,000 tried to jostle their way through every 24 hours. Some get stalled for days. Carbon monoxide, and gas fumes, fill the air; if one of the fuel trucks were to blow, the others would all go with it. Exactly that happened in 1982, and, reportedly, some 900 Russians and Afghans were killed.

As if fumes and fire weren't enough, the tunnel is also plagued by water and ice. The ceiling and walls were never completed, so they leak. As winter snows come, the tunnel becomes one gigantic mud bath, opening onto a cliff-side ice rink on the other side. Given the extreme weather conditions and the fact that the road carries about four times the weight that a highway is supposed to withstand, it is unlikely that any pavement that Turkey or the United States or any of its allies could lay would last. The patching that ISAF did in 2010 is already long gone. Even so, ISAF is discussing repaving at least part of the road, at the cost of more than $60 million.

By: Brant


Anonymous said...

Only the USA would think they could supply an army like this.

Jack Nastyface said...

Not an easy drive no matter which way you go...

Don't know what the security of the provinces /regions between Kabul and Kandahar is, but I know the drive from Peshawar to Karachi goes through areas of Pakistan where antipathy for the US and coalition is high (means: higher probability of IED attack).

The road from Kand-Quetta is sparsely populated, but then you have to take either the highway through the mountains (with very little population) or through the Indus R. Valley (highly populated).

I took a bus (actually a series of buses) from Islamabad/Rawalpindi to Quetta, and then another series of buses to Karachi way back in the day. Stunningly beautiful terrain, but that will be little value to the military who probably just want to expedite safely.