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Belmont Club

The Last Valley

February 26th, 2009 - 1:17 am

The Times Online reports: “US thinks the unthinkable: asking Iran for help with supply routes” into Afghanistan. The reasons for this move are the loss of alternative routes into the landlocked country after the closure of facilities in Kyrgyzstan and the increasing chokehold of Taliban units over land corridors through Pakistan.

It has been a grim couple of weeks for the snack lovers of Camp Phoenix. First Doritos, then Snickers, now Coca-Cola: all have disappeared from the usually packed shelves of the camp store. They were among the more expendable supplies lost when the Pakistani Taleban set fire to containers bound for US bases in Afghanistan close to the Khyber Pass.

The denuded shelves underline a far more serious problem for the US: how to fuel the military effort in Afghanistan in the face of diminishing regional leverage and growing opposition from neighbours.

Weeks of attacks by the Taleban on convoys from Karachi to the Khyber Pass and the decision by Kyrgyzstan to close the only US airbase in the region have left the US scrambling to find new routes at the very moment it is planning an influx of 17,000 troops. …

That is why, for the first time, people are thinking the unthinkable: Iran. Last week a US Nato commander said that individual member countries could seek supply routes through Iran. The US, when it went into Afghanistan, did not predict the turn of events in Pakistan. The search for new roads may force it to entertain alliances every bit as unexpected.

As readers of this site will know from previous posts, I thought that the Obama administration policy in Afghanistan seemed at odds with basic military precepts. I wrote:

The logistical consequences of the shift to the “good war” now have to be faced. Amateurs it is said, think of war in terms of tactics, but professionals see it in terms of logistics. Nowhere may this be truer than in the question of supplying Afghanistan. But the logistical burdens occasioned by greater troop strength may be only the beginning of the true requirements of the Southwest Asian theater. The real center of gravity of Taliban/al-Qaeda strength is in Pakistan, which can only be indirectly pressured from its neighbor to the West and only at the cost of feeding the fire in Pakistan itself. It is an absurd situation in conventional military terms. US supplies must pass through the enemy heartland in order to do a 180 degree to turn to fight that same foe. If the true theater of conflict is Pakistan then the US faces a possible escalation of effort in the theater depending on contingent events. In which case the real load will be the requirements of supporting an effort, direct or indirect, within Pakistan. But that’s our supply line …

If the US actually does succeed in acquiring a supply route through Iran, or with Iranian help, in order to supply NATO troops across the border from the Taliban in Pakistan, then it is axiomatic that an automatic linkage will be set up between Obama’s efforts in Afghanistan and the fate of Iraq, Lebanon and Israel in the Middle East. It it is almost impossible to imagine that Teheran would accede to such a request without extracting a heavy price from the US for the privilege of feeding its increasing garrison in Afghanistan. What price that is and who would pay it seem unavoidable if such an “engagement” actually becomes reality. If any of these actions makes sense in terms of US national interest, please let me know. I am puzzled.

Open thread.


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