Amateurs Study Tactics

Professionals study logistics.

Logistics in the Afghan Campaign has become a popular topic of discussion over the last several days.  More people are noticing that our Line of Communcations between our Sea Port of Debarkation and our logistical support facilities at Bagram and Kandahar is very long, very rough, and very insecure.  I’ve been a voice in the wilderness, unheard on a low-traffic blog, sounding this warning for a while now. 

Ten months ago I brought up Class III in Flat Fuel Bladders at the Tank Farm.

Nine months ago I implored war fighters to Listen to your Loggy Toads.

Nine months ago I warned about the vulnerability of Spin Boldak, the alternative to Torkham.

Seven months ago I noticed a pattern of Blockade of our Cl III.

Six months ago we discussed this at The Belmont Club.

Three months ago, in Red Ball Express Rides Again?, I blogged of a private enterprise approach to fighting through support across a not-quite-sovereign ally’s territory.

Last month I declared that We Can’t Logistically Support A Surge in Afghanistan, unless we pull a bunch of caveated, salsa-dancing NATO fobbits out and replace them with an equal number of ETT’s and PMT’s. 

Ever since the Uzbek dictator Karimov kicked us out of K2 in 2005, OEF has been living on borrowed time, logistically.   We lost our theater Class I collection point and distribution center, as well as access to European rail via Russia.  American soldiers in Bavaria between 2002-2005 could  load up their connexes and milvans on 5-tons, drive on down to the bahnhof, turn them over to the DB and expect them to arrive at their new FOB in the Hindu Kush safe and sound.  I was there twice.  Friends of mine were sent up there for the close out, which wasn’t pretty. 

Some people like to claim that the Afghanistan Campaign was starved of logistical support because the eeeevil Bush wanted to send every thing to Iraq.  Not exactly.  Afghanistan has been starved of logistical support in comparison to Iraq,  because it is a side show, an economy of force theater, and has been from the beginning, because logistically supporting a large American army on the opposite side of the planet far inland from the sea is too hard even for us.  It is so hard for reasons of geography, topography, ethnology, criminology and technology that even the nation that put men on the moon can’t do it except at exorbitant cost.  Saddam’s misfortune was that bin Laden got away, and we could logistically support major operations in Mesopotamia.    

People in various blog comment sections think OEF can be sustained by air. ‘Fraid not.  Bagram and Kandahar are the only major aerial ports of debarkation/embarkation.  They have finite ramp space, and when they go Black on Class III, planes quit coming, or they come in light because they have to carry fuel to get back to Kuwait or Qatar or Dubai.  The aviation infrastructure  for another Operation Vittles just isn’t there.

We came to get bin Laden. We stayed because lily pads at KAF and BAF were good clue bats with which to whomp Islamabad, Tehran, Beijing, Moscow, New Delhi, Bishkek, Tashkent and Dushanbe up side the head.  Maintaining these two super FOB thumbs in the eye of the regional powers was the mission after Tora Bora. They made great places to run the Special Forces Olympics out of.  Beijing and Moscow saw our clue bats and raised us an SCO, outbribing us with Karimov so we lost K2 which put all our logistical eggs in Musharraf’s basket.   He actually did an adequate job of keeping the LOC open, but he’s out now, and his successors aren’t earning their bribes. 

I expect the next Commmander-in-Chief to declare Peace With Honor and bug the hell out, leaving lots of expensive stuff behind.  I was 19 when Saigon fell.  I know what that did to my Army.  I dread what the Fall of Kabul will do to it.

UPDATE:  Trans-Siberian NATO Weapons Express

Russia has agreed to allow Germany to send military equipment over Russian railroads to Afghanistan.


Uzbek leaders are reportedly seeking a high price for their cooperation

UPDATE 200812030003: Pakistani Taliban hit NATO convoys for third consecutive day

UPDATE 200812072045: Taliban storm two Peshawar trucking terminals, 160 NATO vehicles torched

UPDATE 200812131406: Taleban tax: allied supply convoys pay their enemies for safe passage

UPDATE 200812200350: All roads lead out of Afghanistan


Filed under Logistics, The Forgotten War

5 responses to “Amateurs Study Tactics

  1. I should have come over and read this earlier. This is exactly the issue that is confronting us. I was contemplating “air lift” operations in exactly the manner you were. I think that we could do it, but it would be hugely expensive in a war that may go on for another five or ten years depending on what our expectations are for that area and the region. Which also guides what we are willing to do for Afghanistan and what end state we expect to gain.

    Do we just want to kill bin Laden or do we want to end Islamic extremism or are we wanting to facilitate democracy or create bases from which to threaten any of the other bad actors or influence the region or is it all five?

    If it is everything, the cost will be enormous. In which case, I might support higher taxes or war bonds, but I doubt seriously the rest of the nation would after so long. They are not interested in another long war.

    Thus, I think there are probably two things that we will do: 1) continue spec ops from whatever bases we control with limited excursions to keep the insurgents off balance or 2) we will withdraw and simply keep limited forces, intelligence gathering and spies while propping up Pakistan as our base.

  2. Airlift has been extremely important to OEF logistics from the beginning and will continue to be so, but no amount of money will bring Kuwait any closer to Kandahar than it is right now. We get 80% of our fuel, including jet fuel, from Pakistan. If that quits coming so do most of the airplanes. Another thing to consider is that if Putin and Karimov put the arm on the air cargo contractors they can drastically reduce the tonnage brought in by ex-Soviet Ilyushin and Antonov aircraft, which will put quite a strain on the C-17 fleet. IMHO once Pakistan blockades us in Afghanistan we can probably evacuate our personnel by air but we can’t logistically maintain a force capable of doing much more than guarding the airfields.

    The Westphalian nation-state known as Pakistan will not officially blockade Afghanistan. Too many merchants and trucking companies making good money. Tribes in the border region will try to disrupt traffic for blackmail and toll collection. America can’t fix most of Afghanistan’s problems without involving ourselves in Pakistan’s problems.

    We wanted to kill bin Laden in 2001. He was in Afghanistan, so there we went. Mullah Omar wouldn’t hand him over, so we helped the Northern Alliance overthrow him. We stayed in the hopes of eventually getting him and the other upper tier High Value Targets. They’ve been so busy trying to stay alive they haven’t been able to hit us again. Muslims have been shown who the weak horse is. Killing him now would be fine with me, but wouldn’t have the psychological effect now it once would have.

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