Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
August 20, 2008

Fuel for War in Afghanistan

The U.S. plans to reinforce its troops in Afghanistan:

The Pentagon will be sending 12,000 to 15,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan, possibly as soon as the end of this year, with planning underway for a further force buildup in 2009.

Those are three brigades plus support units and maybe an extra brigade on top later on. Where will those troops come from? We don't know yet, but there will likely be less forces in Iraq soon.

The outgoing ISAF Commander McNeill said 400,000 NATO/U.S. troops are needed in Afghanistan. Currently are some 60,000 to 70,000 are there. The new contingent will not make much of a difference.

But these additional forces in Afghanistan will be a much bigger logistic problem than they were in Iraq. Let us look at fuel consumption.

There are few official numbers but estimates range from between 16 gallons of fuel needed per soldier per day to 24 gl per soldier per day. This includes all needs: air support, electricity, climate, cooking, driving etc. We will use 20 gl/s/d for our further estimates.

Most of the fuel used in Afghanistan today comes through Pakistan. Without Russian now unlikely (or Iranian always unlikely) cooperation all fuel has to come through Pakistan. Pakistan has refinery capacities for only half the fuel it uses itself so the refined products the U.S. troops need have to be imported via the Pakistani port of Karachi.

From there the fuel goes by truck either through Quetta and the border town Chaman to Kandahar, or though Peshawar and Torkham at the Khyber Pass to Kabul and the huge U.S. base at Bagram north of Kabul (map).

With the additional troops there will be an additional need of 240,000 gl/day. Gleaned from photos the usual tank used by the contractors for the transports from Karachi to Afghanistan seems to be around 5,000 gl/truck. With the new troop's fuel demand, about 50 additional fuel trucks will have to arrive per day. Accounting for the air force balance about 40 of those will go to Kabul and some 10 to Kandahar.

The direct line distance from Karachi to Kabul is about double the distance from Kuwait to Baghdad. But the mountainius roads are much worse than in Iraq and pure driving time from Karachi to Kandahar is 18 hours and to Kabul 36 hours. Driving at night on the snowy serpentines of Khyber with lots of bad folks around is not recommend.

The real round-trip ride Karachi-Kabul is thereby some 10 days, to Kandahar 5 days. In total 400 additional tank trucks will be needed on the road to/from Kabul and 50 to/from Kandahar. Add 50 or so trucks that will be in maintenance at any time. Where does one get 500 additional tank trucks in Pakistan between now and the end of the year?

One will also have to find, vet and train 500+ Pakistani drivers who are willing to risk their life on these rides. Note that each truck and its content is worth more than 95% of Pakistanis will ever make in their whole life. Who controls them? Will they drive in convoys? Who will guard those?  How many troops will be needed to protect them? How many trucks will simply vanish?

A Mujaheddin in Afghanistan needs a tenth of a gallon per day, if any at all, on station and a bit more while traveling. These resistance fighters have no real logistic problem as they can live off the land.

The 'western' forces in Afghanistan have huge logistic problems. To put two feet on the ground they need twenty feet or more behind them shuffeling papers, organising and feeding the logistic queue. Their way of existence and fighting is incompatible with the country they are in. Too many trucks will not come through. The logistic lines are too long and to insecure. The road war will kill their mission.

Posted by b on August 20, 2008 at 19:24 UTC | Permalink


Is this also a "surge"? On the other hand, at least Bush never pimp-rolled in a flight suit down the runway at Kabul airport to declare "mission accomplished".

Posted by: ralphieboy | Aug 20 2008 20:22 utc | 1

Quite right, b, the supply line is in danger.

The two parameters you haven't discussed, and no doubt will provide a field for discussion, are:

1) Will Pakistan keep its route open, in the post-Musharraf era?


2) If the land routes are closed, could an air supply work? I presume not, but let's discuss it.

Posted by: Alex | Aug 20 2008 20:33 utc | 2

If the land routes are closed, could an air supply work? I presume not, but let's discuss it.

For troops and food yes, for ammunition in doubt, for fuel impossible.

Posted by: b | Aug 20 2008 20:40 utc | 3


no, the bbc's john simpson already did that & it was a performance unrivalled in the modern era

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Aug 20 2008 20:43 utc | 4

Adding to my 3 to Alex - check fuel needs, 240,000 gallons are a 1,000 tons daily need for 12,000 troops. There are 60,000 'western' soldiers in Afghanistan. A C-17, the biggest carrier in U.S. air force, can ferry max 77 tons, less at Kabul's high. There are 170 or so C-17 existing in total. Do the math. If the roads from Pakistan close for fuel supply 'western' operation in Afghanistan is dead in the water.

Watch how the U.S. will cosy up with any government that forms in Pakistan. It has to. Otherwise the (lunatic to begin with) project in Afghanistan is dead immediately. If the U.S. does cosy up, the project will be dead a few month later.

Posted by: b | Aug 20 2008 20:57 utc | 5

b @ 3. I am not against your dismissal, indeed I agree. Nevertheless, we are facing a real possibility of interruption of supply lines. The US and NATO allies have shown in the past great flexibility in relation to air supply. OK, the Berlin air lift in 49 did not require much fuel. But what are the strategies that NATO/US would use in the case of supply line difficulty?

Posted by: Alex | Aug 20 2008 21:07 utc | 6

what i want to know is how they plan on carving afghanistan up into little segments separated by big walls. maybe they will just wall up all the little enclaves and place american flags on the space in between. walling up pakistan should be interesting. aren't there a zillion people there. thats a lot of cement.

sorry OT

Posted by: annie | Aug 20 2008 21:24 utc | 7

did anyone notice my recent 'missle strike reported in NW pakistan' link @ the taliban thread. new news, seems they launched them from afghanistan. maybe the title of this thread should be Fuel for War in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Posted by: annie | Aug 20 2008 21:27 utc | 8

Baby nukes? Aren't they the answer to everything?

OK. Seriously. I look forward to this discussion tomorrow.

Posted by: Hamburger | Aug 20 2008 21:29 utc | 9

Every little drop helps. But not clear how the Taleban might react to solar/wind equipment in the Nato bases.

Posted by: jony_b_cool | Aug 20 2008 22:13 utc | 10

Ammo supplies can be airlifted if we speak about guns, like M-16 and other basic guns, that would be used for defense, I think. The main problem is that they'll have to supply all the bigger guns, tanks and the like, and NATO offensives would require a massive amount of ammunition.

Whatever, I fail to see why no one in Pentagon and White House saw earlier that the only way to have a reliable supply line to Afghanistan, for Western powers, required first to conquer and pacify Pakistan, and deal with smaller Afghanistan later - at which point the whole thing would be a piece of cake compared to what had been done before. (not that they would ever attempt something this big, that's far beyond their level of competence or the US actual military power)

Posted by: CluelessJoe | Aug 20 2008 23:05 utc | 11

Very interesting thinking b.

Classic imperial overreach. Rhetoric will not fuel even one humvee. The situation is unstable in that if exploitation cannot adequately fuel exploitation the whole system must retrench.

If the empire cannot secure its supply lines - all the way from the oil well to the Apache helicopter in the field (and for Russia these are internal lines) - the high-tonnage equipment warfare model fails and we are into a new regime. Will this regime favour headcount over armour? Snipers over aerial bombing? Donkeys over hummers?

Where do you source your fuel/soldier estimates for Mujaheddin?

It seems the total fuel/soldier on the Imperial side is probably consumed all along the logistics chain, not just at the end-point, so much less need be actually delivered?

Posted by: PeeDee | Aug 21 2008 0:02 utc | 12


the american empire is the same as every empire that preceded it - they are clueless. any person or nation can create malfeasance, chaos & brutality - it is not difficult & does not need the thousands & thousands of 'think tanks' that sanitise their evil works. it is the most primaeval of impulses & every empire carries with itself the death instinct as rotting meat carries flies

for all their ivy league idiocy, their chicago school cretinism or the absolute & dulling anaesthesia of their war academies they forget the most salient of facts - it is the people & the people alone who make & transform history & this empire like every other will collapse into ashes

you do not understand the subtlety of space & time as an empire - you try to confine it - this they cannot ever do - their geopolitics is out of some garbage graduate school where the diplomas are covered in dread

that is why repeatedly - other than the most crude conspiracies - conspiracy is beyond them - the empire's tools know little & the warrior kings like armitage, powell, petraeus know even less. they are not capable of understanding the difference between one human being or another - how could it ever be expected that they could understand the delicate balances of people, ethnicity & culture - which in a real sense is a question of wisdom, of complexity, even of beauty

they posses neither wisdom, complexity or beauty

& so even in the managing of detail they are dumbkoffs - i am convinced they think that they think things out - but all evidence is to the contrary & as the great classical scholars have known all along - that depth of understanding requires immersion.

in this instance they know neither what the pakistanis or the afghans think but they don't know what they think of the pakistanis or the afghans - that is to say they do not know the concrete truths of these peoples & if you do not know that you know nothing

so some strategic scheme dreamed up in stanford becomes slop in the still waters of reality, of materiality

so i don't think they know how they will go up & down mountains - go up & down roads - really i don't - i think they think they do but in reality they don't because if there's anything to be learnt from the last 150 years is that everywhere is essentially on a a hair trigger - even in the calm times someone many someones, contionents of someones are suffering precisely because of empire & in each & every one of those someone's heads exists desires & strategies that the empire is condemned to never comprehend

& they don't

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Aug 21 2008 0:17 utc | 13

@10, jony
Wind turbines at the NATO bases? Why not?

Posted by: Browning | Aug 21 2008 0:35 utc | 14

BUT mission failure is only as reported on CNN. If they slowerly redeploy and truck in the goods it'll be time to fend off taliban spring intiatives - the whole plan is set for a known unrealistic date to hope for some blood readiness later.

The new pakistani govt will be ready to take cash in place of a popular policy, they'll just need some big nose thumbing for the cameras before they can get the bucks.

NATO disinvolvement might be more of an issue, come 2011 or so. That's a lot of troops to ensure poppies coming to market - and high rent for a pipeline route that will never materialize ..

Posted by: aumana | Aug 21 2008 1:13 utc | 15

Your tax dollars at work, lol

Posted by: antonymous | Aug 21 2008 1:52 utc | 16

Supply lines. Always the crux of the matter. Thanks for doing the math/geography on this, B.

Posted by: Helena | Aug 21 2008 2:59 utc | 17

As a committed tree-hugger, where do I get a grant to study efficiency of poppy-bio-diesel. Can windmills refine the stuff? Surely in the 21st century we needn't relie on hundreds of old fashioned gas guzzling trucks.

Posted by: Allen/Vancouver | Aug 21 2008 4:15 utc | 18

Alle Männer zu den Gattern der Hölle

r'giap - As a party chief for USAID in Afghanistan quipped, when we presented our
proformas for reconstruction projects chosen by the meetings of tribal elders, then
carried forward in official capacity by their appointed governor, (you can quote):

"What the hell are you doing here? Afghanistan is just a money pot. All the funds pledged
for Afghanistan go to Iraq and Katrina. The people of Afghanistan don't decide what gets
reconstructed, Defense and USAID does. And that won't be anything, any time soon."

We're over there because we pay hundreds of gazillions of our tax dollars to KBR,
which even though it's divested from Halliburton for war crimes liability, you'all can
bet you that Cheney's still receiving deferred compensation from the profit engine,
and double profits for every fuel truck blown up on the road from Karachi to Kabul.

You can't have a profit war without inciting two nations to war against each other.
They want 400,000 troops in Afghanistan, because Iraq just laid down the withdrawal
timetable. 400,000 troops in Afghanistan, pushed right up against the Bhutto-ized
Pakistani confederacy, is a guaranteed $300B a year in defense contractors' pockets.

"100 years or 1000, right to the gates of hell, my friends." John "Birch" McCain
But it's US that McCain is dragging to the gates of hell, shackled in Cerberus' barge.
America's citizens are the new slave trade, NeoZi.con pay-it-backward tax embezzled.
Our children will wear Saudi dog collars, howling in Mandarin at those gates of hell.

Honest to G-d, all you folks grew up on Howdie Dootie and Cowboy Bob, you just
can't seem to get it in your heads, this is not Father Knows Best, and you won't be
getting a chance to "do it better next time", you'll be living out of a daggonedumpster.

Posted by: Sarah Beruss | Aug 21 2008 5:12 utc | 19


Not even wrong.

Posted by: biklett | Aug 21 2008 6:12 utc | 20

The Afghan fire looks set to spread, but there is a way out

Afghanistan was supposed to be a demonstration of Nato's expanded horizons in the post-Soviet new world order. Instead, as with Nato's disastrous engagement with Georgia, it has underscored the dangers of giving the cold war alliance a new imperial brief. The growing conflict must also be added to the litany of US foreign policy failures that have been overseen by George Bush - from Iraq, Iran, Palestine and Lebanon to Latin America and now the Caucasus - and the evident necessity of a new direction.

That is likely to be a mountain to climb, even under an Obama presidency. The Afghan war certainly cannot be won, but the bitterly unpopular 2005 agreement for indefinite bases in the country left no doubt that the US is planning to stay for the long haul. Nato's secretary general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, made clear in a speech to the Brookings Institution in Washington earlier this year that western interests in Afghanistan went well beyond good governance to the strategic interest in having a permanent military presence in a state that borders central Asia, China, Iran and Pakistan.

Posted by: b | Aug 21 2008 7:20 utc | 21

3 NATO soldiers killed in central Afghanistan

NATO says three of its soldiers were killed when their vehicle struck a roadside bomb in central Afghanistan.

The alliance says the blast occurred in the central Ghazni province on Wednesday. It did not provide soldiers nationalities. Polish troops patrol the province.

Posted by: b | Aug 21 2008 7:22 utc | 22

r'giap #13

"how could it ever be expected that they could understand the delicate balances of people, ethnicity & culture - which in a real sense is a question of wisdom, of complexity, even of beauty

they posses neither wisdom, complexity or beauty"

Says it all both in infantile intentions, formulated in fantasy, and their dullard execution. Apparently, ignorance of history, let alone morality, is no vice.

Lovely post nonetheless.

Posted by: anna missed | Aug 21 2008 8:36 utc | 23

Great post, but I am confused. I had read that NATO gets some 50 percent of its fuel through Pakistan. Where does the rest come from now? What is the status of the Rus-Nato agreement of last spring to allow non-lethal transport across Russia? If you could point me to an earlier post or a source, that would be great.

Just as a matter of pure speculation, I would doubt the Russians would seriously imperil Nato supplies lines to Afghanistan. Actually, I would think the more precarious the situation, the more lucrative the operation and thus the Russian oligarchs would be only too happy to deal.

Posted by: david | Aug 21 2008 14:11 utc | 24

I had read that NATO gets some 50 percent of its fuel through Pakistan. Where does the rest come from now?

The numbers I read said 80% through Pakistan, the rest through Tajikistan by rail from Baku (some 1000 miles away).

I am not sure about the status of the agreement with Russia. I never saw something that says it is signed.

I would doubt the Russians would seriously imperil Nato supplies lines to Afghanistan. Actually, I would think the more precarious the situation, the more lucrative the operation and thus the Russian oligarchs would be only too happy to deal.

Even Russian oligarchs are nationalists ... still you may be right ... why not let NATO slowly bleed to death in Afganistan ...

But the situation seems unclear - just in: Russia to continue NATO cooperation: envoy

"Without Russia's support in Afghanistan, NATO would face a new Vietnam, and this is clear to everyone. Militarily, NATO and Russia have a very good and trusting relationship," Rogozin said from his Brussels office.

Moscow's representation at NATO later told Reuters that Rogozin was being recalled to Moscow for emergency consultations on a response to NATO's recent criticism of Russia.

NATO-member Norway said on Wednesday Russia had decided to temporarily freeze military cooperation with members of the alliance but Rogozin emphasized this was not total.

Posted by: b | Aug 21 2008 15:12 utc | 25

Thanks, b. I will see if I can dig up some sources on this, as it seems incredibly important.

Posted by: david | Aug 21 2008 15:47 utc | 26

I noticed this article in the Australian while reading;

300,000 flee as jihadis attacked

Bruce Loudon, South Asia correspondent | August 18, 2008

ISLAMABAD: A human tide of more than 300,000 civilians has fled the al-Qa'ida badlands, amid indications that the fighting there has reached unprecedented levels, with the Pakistani army using massive firepower to attack jihadi militant strongholds.

Helicopter gunships, fixed-wing strike aircraft, tanks and heavy artillery have been used in the onslaught that followed the visit last month by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to Washington, where he was berated for Pakistan's failure to wipe out the militants.

The offensive runs counter to perceptions that Pakistan's new civilian Government is "soft" on Islamic extremism.

This will reassure Washington, whose ally in the war in terror for the past nine years, President Pervez Musharraf, was given by the Coalition Government until midnight last night (4am today AEST) to resign or face impeachment proceedings beginning tonight in the National Assembly.

I'm afraid the Afghan surge will be very much like the Iraqi one; a cover for local allies to initiate ethnic cleansing.

Equally significant is the possibility that Musharraf might have been the one opposed to this, or that Gilani gained Washington's support against Musharraf by promising to be more aggressive. I'd love to hear what people with experience in Pakistan think of this.

Posted by: Lysander | Aug 21 2008 16:34 utc | 27

that Gilani gained Washington's support against Musharraf by promising to be more aggressive

Giliani is simply a puppet Zardari, the Bhutto widower. Zardari himself is a puppet played by the U.S. - they know where all his illicit money is and may or may not take it away.

If Zardari really becomes president of Pakistan now, the country is in for a very, very bad time.

Posted by: b | Aug 21 2008 16:42 utc | 28

seamus milne nato

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Aug 21 2008 16:55 utc | 29

Russia suspends military cooperation with Nato

The Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, suggested that Nato needed Moscow more than Moscow needed Nato, and said Russian cooperation with Nato's efforts against militants in Afghanistan could be jeopardised. "Russia's help is critical for Nato," Lavrov said in televised comments.

He said that after this week's emergency meeting in Brussels, during which Nato "adopted a sharp but not very concrete document" on how to deal with Russia, "leading alliance members came to us and whispered in our ears, hoping that we do not halt cooperation with Nato on Afghanistan".

"We do not intend to slam the door," the Interfax news agency quoted Lavrov as saying. "Everything depends on Nato: if their priorities go to the unconditional support of the bankrupt Saakashvili regime to the detriment of partnership with Nato, it's not our fault."


Posted by: Thrasyboulos | Aug 21 2008 17:50 utc | 30>Eight NATO troops dead in Afghanistan

The 3 polish already mentioned above, three canadians and 2 unknown. I have also read that 2 italian troops were wounded by a road side bomb in Kabul.

So it looks like the resistence is launching a large offensive.

Posted by: ThePaper | Aug 22 2008 10:03 utc | 31

afghan interior ministry says 76 civilians killed in US-led air attack. More jazeera

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Aug 22 2008 16:16 utc | 32

& of course the puppet media bbc reports it as 30 militants killed

& cnn know of its existence not at all - as is their habit

it seems certain that the ten young frenchmen died at the hands of u s pilots - as the surviving soldiers themselves sau

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Aug 22 2008 16:26 utc | 33

& in somalia insurgents take port

everything they touch turns into shit or blood. or both

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Aug 22 2008 16:29 utc | 34

strangely enough skynews is the only one amongst them acknowledging it tho they no doubt will sanitise it before the end of the day

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Aug 22 2008 16:45 utc | 35

Far out, if those numbers of possibly 50 killed children turn out to be true, then good night Irene.

From r'giap's link the following line:

The coalition said 30 insurgents were killed in clashes and air strikes that followed an ambush on Afghan National Army (ANA) and coalition troops as they were going to arrest a Taliban commander.
Are we to believe that the army set out to "arrest" a Taliban Commander? There is no dead or alive when catching a Taliban commander, there's only dead. The troops knew full well that there will be many deaths involved in their assassination attempt.

Via uruknet on this tragedy in Herat:

In April 2007, more than 50 civilians were killed in the same district when coalition forces bombed suspected Taliban militants in the area, according to a United Nations investigation.
No mercy, repeat offenders. In our name, with our taxes.

From above: "So it looks like the resistence is launching a large offensive."

And NATO has started Operation Payback.

Posted by: Juan Moment | Aug 22 2008 19:57 utc | 37

an afghan 'member of parliament' who is quite clearly no friend of the taliban says it was a slaughter in herat - absolutely no possibility of there being taliban -( he sugggest it was the warlords giving the u s bad intelligence - the reality being that the u s doesn't care, not in the least - the afghans are less than animals for them) - that there was only children & women & that their will be more than 100 deaths

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Aug 22 2008 20:15 utc | 38

The Interior Ministry said 19 women, seven men and 50 children under 15 were killed in the Shindand district of Herat province and it has sent a 10-person team to investigate what happened.

It added that a number of civilians were wounded and some of them are in critical condition.

afp provinical gvtt in herat

how many my lai, how many fallujah's, how man tal afar's, how many herats?

Posted by: | Aug 22 2008 21:15 utc | 39

that's me

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Aug 22 2008 21:15 utc | 40

al jazeera staying with details on this slaughter in herat - providing furhter confirmation from provincial officials, security & the interior ministry

i must say i'm surprised because the stories the us occupying forces is that it was militants

it's a bit difficult to suggest that now that provincial police are picking up the bodies of the children & women

i was wondering when quatar would get the phone call to change the story & follow the puppet press but since it constitutes the greatest civilian massacre - it's a bloody story that will sell

i'm sure this will change & it will be told like the the town in lebanon that was hit by the israelis massacring children - where they inferred hesbollah were firing from behind building when it was absolutely clear - hewbollah were elsewhere

it is horrific but every day but massacres have become the empire's daily practice - standard operating procedure

it was interesting in that the 'parliamentarian' said this kind of event was happening because there were not feet on the ground - you can't run a war from the air - he sd - though he was intending to say the contrary - he was actually describing the mechanism of defeat

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Aug 23 2008 1:35 utc | 41

jesus ....

Posted by: annie | Aug 23 2008 2:09 utc | 42

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