Executive Briefings

Afghan Surge to Strain Supply Lines

With presidential orders to surge 30,000 troops into Afghanistan at "the fastest possible pace" in early 2010, U.S. logisticians and planners are scrambling to coordinate the movement of units and tons of materiel over thousands of miles into an exceedingly prohibitive environment.

Although military logisticians had been prepping for months against the possibility of a surge, detailed planning began only after President Barack Obama announced the new strategy Dec. 1. Senior leaders say it's too early to estimate the price tag of moving the new forces rapidly into a landlocked Asian country.

It won't be cheap. Lacking a nearby seaport, bulk cargo shipped to Karachi must be driven through Pakistan into Afghanistan -- past chokepoints that insurgents have attacked. Once in theater, rough terrain and bad roads increase the reliance on helicopters, which are expensive to bring into the country via cargo plane and expensive to operate after arrival. The difficulty of getting to and around Afghanistan drives logistics costs to about $1m per troop per year, far more than the roughly $400,000 it costs to supply troops in Iraq, according to a recent analysis by Todd Harrison, senior budget fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment in Washington.

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With presidential orders to surge 30,000 troops into Afghanistan at "the fastest possible pace" in early 2010, U.S. logisticians and planners are scrambling to coordinate the movement of units and tons of materiel over thousands of miles into an exceedingly prohibitive environment.

Although military logisticians had been prepping for months against the possibility of a surge, detailed planning began only after President Barack Obama announced the new strategy Dec. 1. Senior leaders say it's too early to estimate the price tag of moving the new forces rapidly into a landlocked Asian country.

It won't be cheap. Lacking a nearby seaport, bulk cargo shipped to Karachi must be driven through Pakistan into Afghanistan -- past chokepoints that insurgents have attacked. Once in theater, rough terrain and bad roads increase the reliance on helicopters, which are expensive to bring into the country via cargo plane and expensive to operate after arrival. The difficulty of getting to and around Afghanistan drives logistics costs to about $1m per troop per year, far more than the roughly $400,000 it costs to supply troops in Iraq, according to a recent analysis by Todd Harrison, senior budget fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment in Washington.

Read Full Article