Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
November 20, 2011

A New Attack On U.S. Afghanistan Logistics

Starting in 2008 the U.S. build an alternative logistic route into Afghanistan. Instead of trucks traversing Pakistan the Northern Distribution Network would depend on the railway system of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and other former Soviet Union states.

That railway system was recently extended into Afghanistan with the termination point in Mazar-e-Sharif. It is overall a fragile and long route depending on old infrastructure in a dubious maintenance state. In Uzbekistan trains take priority only when various bribes get paid to the right people.

Still the plans are to in future route 75% of all land based logistics through the NDS to become less dependent on Pakistan. This again could eventually open options to put more political or military pressure on Pakistan.

It is obvious that the situation would make the NDS a target for several constituencies and now the inevitable happened:

Uzbekistan media have reported an explosion on a railway line on the Central Asian nation’s border with Afghanistan.

The rail route lies on a distribution network used for the supply of goods to United States troops serving in Afghanistan, but the cause of the blast was unclear.
Privately operated Uzmetronom news site, based in the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, said investigators are probing a possible terrorist link.

A bit more, though still murky information via Eurasianet:

There is very little information about this so far, but there hasn't been a terror attack in Uzbekistan for several years. And the fact that it's so near to Termez, the hub of the U.S.'s Northern Distribution Network that carries military cargo through Central Asia to Afghanistan, has to have people worrying in Tashkent and the Pentagon.
A map on the Ferghana News site shows where Galaba and Amu Zang are, and it is in fact on a line that does coincide with the NDN. And a press release on the Russian Railways site (in Russian) says that service on the line is disrupted because of the "destruction of the supports of the railway bridge."

The incident happened on Wednesday and was only made public today. With a bridge down the repair may take some time.

It is easy to blame "terrorists" for the incident. But there are many groups who could have a possible interests here.

  • The Taliban are a possible candidate. Attacking the logistics of their enemies is a preferred choice for them.
  • The Pashtun trucker mafia from Karachi is providing most of the trucks used on the supply line through Pakistan. It is losing business to the NDS and breaking it would keep their revenue stream up.
  • The Pakistani military is interested in keeping a decisive hand over the endgame in Afghanistan. Its pressure point it currently the U.S. logistic line through Pakistan. Losing that is not in its strategic interest.
  • All of the above would possible use surrogates from the reinstated Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which, allegedly, has some groups in eastern Pakistan, to operate in Uzbekistan.
  • Besides the IMU there are possibly other groups with an interest in overthrowing the brutal Usbek dictatorship of Islam Karimov and who could use such attacks decrease his utility for his U.S. supporters.
  • Last but not least Karimov himself and the various Uzbek criminals involved in profiting from the NDS have some interest to use the U.S. dependency on their country's railway system to exhort more money for "keeping it safe". A little destruction now and then would help the argument.

As Lawrence of Arabia taught the Turks a while ago, logistics depending on long railway lines can be easily attacked and are very difficult to defend. This will not be the last time that such an attack occurs.

The U.S. is still learning what the Duke of Wellington (1769-1852) already recognized some 200 years ago:

"[In Afghanistan] a small army would be annihilated and a large one starved."

While the point of starving may not be reached anymore in a modern campaign it will be the high logistic costs of supporting foreign troops in Afghanistan that will eventually lead to their retreat.

Posted by b on November 20, 2011 at 15:00 UTC | Permalink

Besides the IMU there are possibly other groups


Posted by: hans | Nov 20 2011 15:38 utc | 1

Yeah, just that the logistics of the retreat will not be easy either. Ex Soviet Union could give advise on that. Remember those last helicopters from Vietnam? Obama would not wish that to happen during his election campaign.

I agree, Hans, Iran has loads of opportunity for retaliation against US forces outside of full blown war. I am not sure anybody knows any more what they are doing.

Posted by: somebody | Nov 20 2011 18:01 utc | 2

From b's Eurasianet link:
And the fact that it's so near to Termez, the hub of the U.S.'s Northern Distribution Network that carries military cargo through Central Asia to Afghanistan, has to have people worrying in Tashkent and the Pentagon.

Imo that extract is the key to this story. Considering that the AfPak fake war is more about making money than "winning" anything, it's a pretty safe bet that Yankees (CIA or Special Ops) based in Termez carried out this attack.

This story merely confirms what unimaginative, lily-livered little twerps Yankee 'warriors' really are. They lacked the grit to travel far enough from their base to give the demolition job the imprimatur of some REMOTE locals.

This attack doesn't in any way affect what the Yankees are really up to in AfPak. All it does is give them an excuse to return to a more costly and inefficient method of fleecing taxpayers.

If this supply line was so vital, the Yankees would have stationed guards on a target as obvious and critical as a bridge - if the new route was anything other than a scam.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Nov 21 2011 5:59 utc | 3

MKB explores the implications of Karzai's recent stacked and stage-managed Loya Jirga. As MKB explains, the Loya Jirga is traditionally the ultimate instrument of public policy crisis-resolution (it has only been convened 20 times in the past 300 years). But at US insistence Karzai's fake Loya Jirga has approved a "secret" agreement to allow an open-ended US presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014.
Imo, when Uncle Sam leaves Afghanistan, it will make the panic-stricken exit from Vietnam look like a leisurely stroll during a Sunday school picnic.

Karzai skates on thin ice

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Nov 22 2011 4:40 utc | 4

@Hoarse - the Loya Jirga set out 76 conditions under which U.S. soldiers would be allowed to stay. I doubt that the U.S. will stick to that side of the deal. When it does not, this Loya Jirga decision will give legitimacy to the resistance.

Posted by: b | Nov 22 2011 13:04 utc | 5

b @ 5.
I agree; and thanks for the link to the Loya Jerga's 76 recommendations.
Btw, what do you make of 56. The 16-article resolution...
Is it a typo or a reiteration of 1-16?

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Nov 23 2011 5:11 utc | 6

The Loya Jerga list is just one more indication that America's military buffoons are circling the drain in Afghanistan. The problem they have in AfPak is exactly the same one they had in Vietnam - the natives aren't as cowardly or stupid as loud-mouthed Yankees.

There was an amusing incident in Oz about a month ago which illustrates the likelihood that Afghans, specifically, aren't as stupid as Yankees wish they were.

Some scammers tried to bully refugees into paying $200 for a 'power-saving device' which one plugs into a power outlet before plugging in an electric appliance. It was said to save 50% on power bills but didn't and couldn't. Many refugees of various origins forked out their $200 and complained to Consumer Affairs, who did what they sometimes do - adopted a "wait and see" attitude.

The scam went public because of complaints from the Post Office. The Afghan community, realising it was a scam, placed large numbers of multiple C.O.D orders for pick-up at the local Post Office, where the volume of uncollected orders began to cause headaches for the Post Office.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Nov 24 2011 4:06 utc | 7

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