Key Northern Supply Route Speeds Afghan Surge

Back in 2008, there was a big fear that Taliban insurgents in Pakistan might choke off NATO’s only ground supply line that runs from the southern port of Karachi north and into Afghanistan. Attacks on ground convoys were becoming a near daily event.

The overland route through Pakistan, given the name “Apache,” for obvious reasons, breaks into two points that flow into Afghanistan, at the “Chaman gate,” in the south that goes to Kandahar, and at the “Torkham gate” in the north, also known as the Khyber Pass. “We recognized that that was, quite frankly, very tenuous ground line of communication that we didn't want to put all of our eggs in,” said Air Force Major General Robert McMahon, the man in charge of moving troops and gear into Afghanistan, yesterday on a conference call.

Thankfully, due to some adroit diplomatic moves and hard work on the part of Transportation Command, McMahon’s command based at CENTCOM, and others, the military was able to open up a northern supply route that uses rail lines. That route flows across Europe, then down through the various –stans, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and into Afghanistan, McMahon said. Right now, a new rail line is under construction running from Uzbekistan, across the old Friendship Bridge, down to Mazar-i-Sharif, where a new airfield is also being built.

All sensitive equipment, including weapons, ammunition and MRAPs and the newer, lighter MATVs, and of course the troops, are flown into Afghanistan. To speed up the process of flowing in large numbers of MATVs for the troop plus up, McMahon said they’re looking at another option of shipping them to a nearby port, somewhere in the Gulf supposedly, and then flying them onward from there.

McMahon said his command is trying to get as much of the “critical stuff” into Afghanistan before the reinforcements arrive, “so that I don't burn boots on the ground without their equipment,” and do it all before the critical August 31 deadline.

-- Greg

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