What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Monday, May 11, 2009

ISAF logistics

The following background notes were prepared by one of our employees who is currently on non-paid leave. That is, PM (stands not for prime minister) - the guy who usually updates the Ministry's blog.

"Russia's support to ISAF, officially in allowing for the transit of nonlethal supplies only, to countries such as the U.S., Spain, France and Germany, is absolutely important, even if it is not a perfect solution to save us from the troubles in Pakistan. That is what one finds if one does the counting based on numbers that are openly available.

Annually, ISAF needed around 70,000 containers of supplies, as things stood at the beginning of the year.

One may count with standard TEU containers for a projection. These are so-called Twenty-foot Equivalent Units, capable of containing cargo up to over 21 tons. Thus 70,000 TEUs may translate to 1,470,000 tons of stuff.

From the direction of Pakistan, at around January, there were a hundred trucks "crossing" the border through the Bolan Pass, at Chaman, every day, and there were around 300 in the Khyber Pass, at Torkham.

If we (very optimistically) assume that each of these trucks carries a TEU-load of supplies for ISAF to Afghanistan, that means 400 TEUs a day, or 8,400 tons. Per week, that is 2,800 TEUs. Per month (weekly figure multiplied by 4.5), that is 11,200 TEUs, per year: 134,400.

But. There are "minor" objections one can raise here, instead of concluding that ISAF comfortably gets its supplies.

1. All sorts of trucks carry stuff for ISAF - and one should count with 0.5 TEU per truck rather. Perhaps that is more realistic. Then you halve your figure already: it is just 67,200 TEUs a year.

2. ISAF's need of 70,000 containers is probably not what ISAF would need if it could have everything on its wishlist.

3. Not only ISAF forces need to be resupplied in Afghanistan, but also OEF (Operation Enduring Freedom) forces, as well as Afghan Security Forces.

4. On holidays, traffic stops, and guerrillas may feel the urge to take some lucky strikes with RPGs at parking trucks. So deduce some...

5. Trucks "crossing" the border may not carry supplies for ISAF. They may be crossing from the other direction...

How much does Russia matter? Well, a lot. The original plans at around February said that 20 to 30 trainloads would be brought down from Riga harbour in Latvia, through Russia, to some non-clarified destination in Central Asia (where one presumes that all the stuff has to be re-loaded to trucks or planes in the end). A train can bring down around a hundred TEUs, so that would be 2,000 to 3,000 every week, 9,000 to 13,500 every month, and 108,000 to 162,000 TEUs every year. Restricted to nonlethal supplies, by agreement.

But are we there yet, at that throughput?

Meanwhile, the indications remain that the Manas base in Kyrgyzstan is gone for NATO. How much does that mean? According to one source that I eventually found, it put through "500 tons of cargo" a month. Nice, nice... But it's wrong! Or one gets the feeling it must be wrong... Hell, the Kyrgyz-Tajik Student Forum of Eternal Friendship could offer us a 500-tons-per-month throughput if they would form a human chain from Bishkek to Mazar-i-Sharif...

Anyway, added to the more or less available Russian supply route, NATO would not oppose it if some of its member states could come to agreement with Iran over having some supplies transiting there. That could mean the situation is not so bad. But of course ISAF is expanding, and so are Afghan security forces. It will probably take more than 70,000 TEUs annually in the future to re-supply them. Some of this can be put in the air, but not endlessly.

Anyway, here's a NATO video about the Torkham crossing, and the new Theatre Movement Coordination Cell. I don't know how the TMCC would solve the problems of a truck driver who is stopped by insurgents near Peshawar, but they say that road security for the supplies in Pakistan has improved recently anyway."


The Ministry is of course interested in further studying the situation, as well as if any of the figures cited in the above background notes are correct or incorrect.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In addition rail alternative via Russia using northern corridor via Russia , Kazakhstan , Uzbekistan could be alternative but Uzbekistan still making some problems for truck shipments.