Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
June 09, 2011

The AfPak Tanker War

The campaign against tankers trucking fuel for NATO from Karachi to Afghanistan is back in full force after a lull earlier this year.

While now only some 50% of the fuel needed in Afghanistan is coming through Pakistan, the total fuel need has nearly doubled over the last year due to the "surge", the buildup of Afghan forces and an increased operations. It would be impossible to fight this war if that line-of-communication gets interrupted.

Here is a, likely incomplete, list of recent attacks on NATO tankers. The losses are significant:

Explosion destroys Nato tanker in Khyber, June 9

PESHAWAR: A Nato oil tanker was destroyed following an explosion in the Khyber tribal region on Thursday, DawnNews quoted security sources as saying.

Eight Nato supply tankers torched, June 8

KHYBER AGENCY – As many as eight Nato oil supply tankers were torched on Tuesday here in Torkham, political administration and Khasadar sources said.

Five Nato tankers burn in explosion, June 7

PESHAWAR: A Pakistani government official says five Nato oil tankers burned after an explosion at the Afghan border.

Two Nato tankers gutted, June 6
QUETTA - Two tankers carrying supplies for the Nato forces stationed in Afghanistan were torched in two separate incidents in Bolan and Khuzdar districts of Balochistan on Sunday.

Miscreants set NATO supply oil tanker on fire, June 5

According to details, an oil tanker was carrying oil for the NATO forces percent in Afghanistan from Karachi through Sibi, three unknown miscreants targeted this oil tanker near Konbari Bridge in Bolan.

Two NATO oil tankers torched in Nasirabad, June 1

QUETTA: The driver of a NATO oil tanker was injured while two tankers were torched in Mastung and Wadh areas, respectively, on Tuesday.

Two NATO tankers torched in Pakistan, May 31

The attack took place on Tuesday morning, when unknown gunmen opened fire on the oil tankers in Khuzdar district of the volatile Balochistan province, local police told Press TV.

3 NATO Tankers destroyed in separate incidents: One killed , May 31

QUETTA: Three NATO Tankers were destroyed and a person was killed in two separate incidents in Mastong and Khuzdar hereon Tuesday.

Driver killed, 4 injured in 3 NATO oil tankers collision, May 26

NOWSHERA: Driver was killed and four were injured when three NATO oil tankers collided with each other on Nowshera-Peshawar G.T. Road while overtaking from the wrong side hereon Thursday.
Two of the tankers were completely destroyed and thousands liters of oil spilled over the G.T. Road.

15 dead in NATO tanker fire in Pakistan: officials, May 20

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — A bomb attack Saturday on a NATO fuel tanker headed to Afghanistan sparked a huge fire that killed 15 people who had rushed to collect petrol leaking from the bombed-out vehicle.
Earlier, 11 other NATO supply vehicles, "most of them oil tankers" were destroyed at a terminal in nearby Torkham town, another administration official, Iqbal Khattak, said, but there were no casualties.

19 Nato tankers torched near Torkham, May 15

LANDIKOTAL: The number of Nato oil tankers that were burnt in bomb blast near Afghan border Friday night reached 19, as 14 more tankers caught fire early Saturday, official sources said.

Posted by b on June 9, 2011 at 11:11 AM | Permalink


Supply lines are a big issue. Oddly, although the Pentagon recently "recognised" global warming as a serious threat to the USA (and therefore, by implication, a legitimate target of their attentions (!?!?!?)), they are the single biggest organisational burner of petroleum products on the planet. Oh well.

I tend to the idea that the pacification of an implacably hostile nation, on the far side of the planet, with mountainous terrain, a long history of resistance to foreign occupation, and a vigorous culture of armed conflict, is a proof point opportunity:

"If we can do it there, we can do it anywhere" (i.e everywhere)

Domination of everywhere on this planet seems to be the ambition in play.

Posted by: ScuzzaMan | Jun 9, 2011 12:26:08 PM | 1

.... three unknown miscreants targeted this oil tanker
Is this a new word describing the "Good Taliban", you know the ones who the Americans can do business with!

Posted by: hans | Jun 9, 2011 12:51:03 PM | 2

@hans - "miscreants" - one can see that word used quite often in the Pakistani print/online media. They use it for any "bad guys" be they bank robbers or whatever.

Posted by: b | Jun 9, 2011 1:10:32 PM | 3

Behind the spreadsheets and ratios are the desperate drivers willing to risk life and livelihood at the hands of the Pentagon and greedy contractors. This supply scheme rests on the availability of disposable people.

Posted by: Biklett | Jun 9, 2011 1:35:27 PM | 4

For the kind of people running this show from behind only 'benefits' are non-disposable. I'm pretty sure that AfPak is still a big success on that metric.

Posted by: ThePaper | Jun 9, 2011 1:53:09 PM | 5

I wonder how many tankers NATO has access to? How many tankers need to be destroyed before they will not have enough to transport the fuel?

In other words, how many tankers per day before the NATO force has to seriously restrict fuel consumption? 5, 10, 100?

Posted by: Lysander | Jun 9, 2011 8:21:27 PM | 6

@Lysander #6

Better question: How many contractors are getting filthy rich by manufacturing tankers and selling them to NATO at a premium?

Posted by: Dr. Wellington Yueh | Jun 9, 2011 10:56:58 PM | 7

I doubt anyone, on any side, has any intention of cutting the Pakistan supply route.

That would be too decisive a move, inspiring some kind of extreme US counter-action. The time for that still lies in the future. The strategy instead seems to be slow, partial--only partial--strangulation.

The seeming strategy against the US reminds me of the British strategy against (Turkish held) Medina during the First World War, as described by T. E. Lawrence in the Seven Pillars of Wisdom.

The British realized they could cut the rail line to Medina and force the fall of the city, but they also realized that this would force the Turks to regroup into a more compact and advantageous shape. They decided it would be better to let the Turks hang on, half-starved, and thereby more weakened, by harassing the rail line but letting enough supplies go through to encourage the Turks to remain over-extended. Thus, when defeat came to the Turks in Arabia, it came not as retreat, but as sudden collapse everywhere at once.

Though I am sure that that strategy, and any resemblance to what is happening now in Pakistan and Afghanistan, is strictly co-incidental.

Posted by: Gaianne | Jun 10, 2011 12:34:28 AM | 8

Bomb destroys NATO tanker in Khyber Agency, June 10, 2011

LANDIKOTAL: An explosive device planted in the driving seat of a NATO oil tanker went off in Changai area in Landikotal on Thursday gutting the seat and the whole engine consequently.
Blasts in NATO oil tankers have increased with the passage of time during the last one month and so far some 40 oil tankers have been destroyed in these blasts.

Oil supply to the NATO forces stationed in Afghanistan through tankers has also decreased owing to these attacks.

@Gaianne - you may well be right. There is probably no one interested in a total cut, just slow strangling. Still I wonder about the northern supply line. A slow strangling strategy would necessarily need to put some limits on that line too.

Posted by: b | Jun 10, 2011 3:37:58 AM | 9

@ #9--

Well, that is a good point. And things may not go well for Afghanistan, on the other hand--as the northern route is controlled by Russia--there is no way the US can accomplish its objectives depending on the northern route, either. One way or another, slow bleed-out will continue.

Let me be explicit: I do not believe the Russians will permit or allow a successful occupation of Afghanistan by the US. And control of the northern route means they do not have to allow it.

This is a multi-sided war. As regards the US--but not in other respects!--Russia and the Taliban are on the same side.

Posted by: Gaianne | Jun 11, 2011 12:47:45 AM | 10

There are many ways to skin a cat: to skin a cat . Note that at this point these are only bills being proposed, not enacted laws, but, one suspects, the message is being received loud and clear.

Posted by: Hannah K. O'Luthon | Jun 11, 2011 12:38:40 PM | 11

NATO tanker attacked, driver killed

PISHIN: A driver of a NATO oil tanker was killed and his assistant received bullet injuries when unidentified armed men attacked the oil tanker in the Yaro area on Friday.

Posted by: b | Jun 12, 2011 7:24:25 AM | 12

Afghan militants torch 20 NATO tankers

Taliban forces launched a prolonged and massive attack on NATO oil tankers in Sayed Abad city on Sunday, destroying more than 20 NATO tankers, Wardak province's police chief Haghnavaz Haghyar told Press TV on Monday.

At least six Afghan soldiers were also left injured in the incident, the Afghan police chief added.

However, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed that 38 oil tankers were destroyed and 32 drivers were killed in the attack.

Posted by: b | Jun 14, 2011 4:49:13 AM | 13

7 Nato tankers destroyed

PESHAWAR, June 13: At least seven tankers carrying fuel for Nato troops in Afghanistan were gutted on Monday when a bomb planted in one of the vehicles exploded at a terminal in Torkham border area, officials said.

“A bomb fitted with a timer blew up an oil tanker. It triggered fire that engulfed six more tankers,” local administration official Shahar Yar Khan said. There were no reports of any casualties, he added.

Posted by: b | Jun 14, 2011 4:57:53 AM | 14

There were no reports of any casualties

Sounds as if these guys pre-alert, IRA style, at least in Pakistan; no such luck for the drivers once in Afghanistan

Posted by: claudio | Jun 14, 2011 8:44:58 AM | 15

@Claudio - from reports the Pakistani trucker mafia is nearly all Pashtun. Those tankers blown up within Pakistani Pashtun areas indeed mostly have no casualties. Those who drive through Baluchistan are more open targets and seem to get hurt more often.

Whatever - some 87 - 100 tanker trucks blown up in the one month listed above. That is a significant number in my view.

Posted by: b | Jun 14, 2011 11:43:03 AM | 16

b, could this tanker war be more than just mafia or talebans? could it be a front of the secret, ruthless war raging between the Usa and Pakistan? if not, why a spike now? occupiers aren't paying for protection anymore? or something has changed after the OBL assassination?

Posted by: claudio | Jun 14, 2011 7:06:14 PM | 17

@claudio - I have no real idea on who is directing the campaign. Maybe Taliban, maybe ISI, maybe some of the driver mafia who want to increase their prices. But it does look like an intentional campaign.

Nato oil tanker drivers demand security

LANDIKOTAL: Tribal transporters have complained.that the Torkham administration has failed to take any concrete steps for security of the oil tankers and other transporters bound for Bagram air base in Afghanistan.

According to administration sources, an explosive device detonated on Monday in one of the Nato supply oil tankers at the Torkham parking terminal near the border setting ablaze two more oil tankers nearby.

A local driver informed that he saw five oil tankers burning after the blast while he was coming from Torkham to Landikotal bazaar.

Drivers of Nato oil tankers and other transporters have alleged that tehsildar Torkham, Sheharyar Khan, is not providing foolproof security to the tankers.

Transporters demanded of the high-ups to force the Torkham administration to provide the oil tankers and other transporters complete security or there will be no other recourse but to stop supply to Afghanistan.

Posted by: b | Jun 14, 2011 11:53:40 PM | 18

Four NATO tankers torched in Pakistan

Pakistani militants in northwest of the country have attacked and set afire four NATO supply vehicles transporting fuel to the US-led forces in Afghanistan.

A group of unidentified armed men attacked the convoy in Landi Kotal district of the border town of Torkham on Thursday in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province at around 10 a.m. local time (0500 GMT), Pajhwok news agency reported.

A tanker was set ablaze as a result of the assault. The fire immediately spread to fully-loaded tankers nearby, completely gutting them.

Posted by: b | Jun 16, 2011 12:30:47 PM | 19

3 Nato tankers torched in two separate incidents

QUETTA/Khyber Agency - Unidentified armed men set on fire two Nato oil tankers in Dera Murad Jamali on Thursday while a bombing of a Nato tanker in Khyber Agency destroyed the tanker and three other vehicles. No loss of life was reported in both the incidents.

“Unidentified gunmen riding a bike opened fire at two oil tankers carrying fuel for Nato forces in Nothal area of Dera Murad Jamali in Naseeabad district of Balochistan and later set the tankers on fire,” police said, adding that the vehicles were gutted and thousands of liters fuel destroyed.
In Khyber Agency, a Nato oil supply tanker and four vehicles were reduced to ashes when unidentified militants blew up the tanker by installing magnetic time bomb at the bypass road in Landi Kotal tehsil, political administration sources said.
Abdullah Azam group of TTP claimed the responsibility of the attack. Abu Mus’ab, a TTP spokesman, speaking from an unknown location told reporters on phone that they would increase their attacks on the Nato supplies in Khyber Agency. Over past few weeks the militants have increased their sabotage activities and attacks on Nato supplies. In the last two months over 51 Nato oil tankers, other trucks and mini-coaches have been destroyed in Landikotal and Torkham border area.

Note that 51 is very low, downplaying estimate. Documented above are nearly 100 burned tankers in just one month.

Posted by: b | Jun 16, 2011 11:21:42 PM | 20

B, I tried to link URL's to show that it is estimated that delivery of a gallon of fuel to Afghanistan works out at $1,000, so with 100 tankers destroyed in the past month that works out at a loss of $880m.

Posted by: Cloned Poster | Jun 17, 2011 7:12:50 AM | 21

@CP - the last numbers i have seen say $400 for delivery to a FOB in the wilderness. $1,000 seems too high to me. But please post the links (3 max per comment).

Posted by: b | Jun 17, 2011 9:00:34 AM | 22

Gas-guzzling DoD

The US Department of Defense (DoD) is not only America's - but the world's - single largest consumer of fuel, spending more than $20 billion a year to purchase and transport 4.6 billion gallons. Ninety-one percent of all fuel purchased by the federal government goes to DoD. As of 2009, the US military uses about 340,000 barrels per day (bpd) of petroleum-based fuels. In the fiscal year 2008, DoD spent about $16 billion to procure this amount of fuel - about triple what it would have spent in 2003 prices.

Much of this fuel heads to Afghanistan - the Marines alone consume 800,000 gallons per day (gpd) in Afghanistan. In October 2010 Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen said that fossil fuels are the number one import to Afghanistan, with US soldiers using up to 300,000 bpd of oil. A November 2009 Deloitte study, Energy Security - America's Best Defense , calculated that the US military consumes 22 gpd per soldier, based on five previous US military conflicts. With US President Barack Obama's surge now complete, that means supplying more than 100,000 US troops. Besides the fuel requirements of US ground forces, the US Air Force's fuel demands are rising at Kandahar Airfield, which boasts one of the busiest runways in the world, and at the Bagram Air Base north of Kabul, now housing more than 20,000 US troops - these in addition to thousands of coalition forces and civilian contractors. At Bagram, while most of the fuel is used for aviation, the absolute amount used for base support is still very large: 11 million gallons per year (30,564 gpd).

As Afghanistan has no indigenous hydrocarbon supplies, every drop must be brought in with transit greatly increasing the cost, especially supplies brought from the US. The cost of fuel delivered to US forces in Afghanistan escalates dramatically from the roughly $3 per gallon that DoD pays stateside for a gallon of JP-8, the fuel most widely used by the US military. In October 2009 Pentagon officials testified before the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee that the "Fully Burdened Cost of Fuel" (FBCF) translates to about $400 per gallon by the time it arrives at a remote Forward Operating Base (FOB) in Afghanistan. Last year, the FBCF reached $800 in some FOBs following supply route bombings in Pakistan, while others have claimed the FBCF may be as high as $1,000 per gallon in some remote locations.

Currently most fuel and supplies for US troops in Afghanistan are shipped through Karachi, where each day about 300 commercial trucks transport the fuel through Pakistan to Afghanistan, sometimes changing carriers. The fuel is then transferred to storage locations in Afghanistan for movement within the country, where US military transport is used to distribute it to FOBs. For many remote locations, fuel supplies can only be provided by air - one of the most expensive ways being in helicopter fuel bladders.

Posted by: Cloned Poster | Jun 17, 2011 10:07:15 AM | 23

@CP thanks - that piece is a bit light on sourcing though "while others have claimed the FBCF may be as high as $1,000 per gallon" wold be nice to know who "others" are ...

Driver of NATO oil tanker gunned down

QUETTA: The driver of a NATO oil tanker was killed by unidentified men in Akhtarabad, on the outskirts of the provincial capital, on Friday. According to official sources, a NATO oil tanker carrying fuel for NATO forces stationed in Afghanistan was going to Kandahar from Karachi when unidentified armed men riding a motorbike opened fire on the tanker, critically injuring the driver of the oil tanker. The assailants managed to flee from the scene after committing the crime.

Posted by: b | Jun 18, 2011 5:38:47 AM | 24

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