In this article Friedman examines the Afghanistan logistics situation in the aftermath of the incident at the Pakistani outpost. Pakistan closed the ground routes into Afghanistan and Russia is threatening to shut down the alternate route through their territory.
Pakistan believes that the U.S. is stalemated in Afghanistan and, even though the U.S. could prosecute the war at current levels for some time, that there is no path open for an eventual victory.
For that reason Pakistan is using its response to the border fire fight as an excuse to distance itself from the U.S. and to ingratiate itself with the Taliban, who would almost certainly gain influence in any future post-NATO Afghani government.
Meanwhile Russia is using the fact that, in the advent of a prolonged closing of the supply route Pakistan, the Northern Distribution Network (NDN), which passes through Russian terrotory could be interrupted by them.
The Russian threats are part of the chessgame going on in Central Europe, where the U.S. is deploying missle batteries, interceptors and troops to guard their assets. Russia sees these moves as the return to the U.S. policy of containment with the belt tightened even closer to the Russian homeland than it was during the Cold War.
As for the article's Hot Stratfor Babe, since the article was about trucking in supplies, the movie The Wages of Fear which involved truckers moving a dangerous cargo of nitroglycerine naturally sprang to mind. For that reason I selected Véra Clouzot, the movie's female lead, for the article's Hot Strafor Babe honor.
It you've ner seen The Wages of Fear, it is a good movie. It revolves around a group of seedy expats who are all broke and stranded in a remote South American village. Ms Clouzot plays a vixen who works in the local cantina. Eventually the chance to make enough money to escape the town appears in the form of the local industry -- a U.S. oil firm which they would ordinarily be to useless to get hired by -- has a well fire and needs somebody to drive 2 truckloads of nitroglycerine to the well site along some very dangerous roads.
Véra Clouzot had a very brief film career, starring in only three films, all directed by her husband Henri-Georges Clouzot. She also wrote one screenplay for him. however, brief as her career was, it was well received, with the film Diabolique being considered a classic.
As a bonus, after the article I've included a clip from The Wages of Fear where Véra is playing a tart who is washing the floor of the cantina she works in as she flirts with one of the layabout expats as well as a second longer clip in the cantina that gives a good feel for the film.
Pakistan, Russia and the Threat to the Afghan War
By George Friedman, November 30,2011
Days after the Pakistanis closed their borders to the passage of fuel and supplies for the NATO-led war effort in Afghanistan, for very different reasons the Russians threatened to close the alternative Russia-controlled Northern Distribution Network (NDN). The dual threats are significant even if they don’t materialize. If both routes are cut, supplying Western forces operating in Afghanistan becomes impossible. Simply raising the possibility of cutting supply lines forces NATO and the United States to recalculate their position in Afghanistan.
The possibility of insufficient lines of supply puts NATO’s current course in Afghanistan in even more jeopardy. It also could make Western troops more vulnerable by possibly requiring significant alterations to operations in a supply-constrained scenario. While the supply lines in Pakistan most likely will reopen eventually and the NDN likely will remain open, the gap between likely and certain is vast.
The Pakistani Outpost Attack
The Pakistani decision to close the border crossings at Torkham near the Khyber Pass and Chaman followed a U.S. attack on a Pakistani position inside Pakistan’s tribal areas near the Afghan border that killed some two-dozen Pakistani soldiers. The Pakistanis have been increasingly opposed to U.S. operations inside Pakistani territory. This most recent incident took an unprecedented toll, and triggered an extreme response. The precise circumstances of the attack are unclear, with details few, contradictory and disputed. The Pakistanis have insisted it was an unprovoked attack and a violation of their sovereign territory. In response, Islamabad closed the border to NATO; ordered the United States out of Shamsi air base in Balochistan, used by the CIA; and is reviewing military and intelligence cooperation with the United States and NATO.
The proximate reason for the reaction is obvious; the ultimate reason for the suspension also is relatively simple. The Pakistani government believes NATO, and the United States in particular, will fail to bring the war in Afghanistan to a successful conclusion. It follows that the United States and other NATO countries at some point will withdraw.
Some in Afghanistan have claimed that the United States has been defeated, but that is not the case. The United States may have failed to win the war, but it has not been defeated in the sense of being compelled to leave by superior force. It could remain there indefinitely, particular as the American public is not overly hostile to the war and is not generating substantial pressure to end operations. Nevertheless, if the war cannot be brought to some sort of conclusion, at some point Washington’s calculations or public pressure, or both, will shift and the United States and its allies will leave Afghanistan.
Given that eventual outcome, Pakistan must prepare to deal with the consequences. It has no qualms about the Taliban running Afghanistan and it certainly does not intend to continue to prosecute the United States’ war against the Taliban once its forces depart. To do so would intensify Taliban attacks on the Pakistani state, and could trigger an even more intense civil war in Pakistan. The Pakistanis have no interest in such an outcome even were the United States to remain in Afghanistan forever. Instead, given that a U.S. victory is implausible and its withdrawal inevitable and that Pakistan’s western border is with Afghanistan, Islamabad will have to live with — and possibly manage — the consequences of the re-emergence of a Taliban-dominated government.
Under these circumstances, it makes little sense for Pakistan to collaborate excessively with the United States, as this increases Pakistan’s domestic dangers and imperils its relationship with the Taliban. Pakistan was prepared to cooperate with the United States and NATO while the United States was in an aggressive and unpredictable phase. The Pakistanis could not risk more aggressive U.S. attacks on Pakistani territory at that point, and feared a U.S.-Indian entente. But the United States, while not leaving Afghanistan, has lost its appetite for a wider war and lacks the resources for one. It is therefore in Pakistan’s interest to reduce its collaboration with the United States in preparation for what it sees as the inevitable outcome. This will strengthen Pakistan’s relations with the Afghan Taliban and minimize the threat of internal Pakistani conflict.
Despite apologies by U.S. and NATO commanders, the Nov. 26 incident provided the Pakistanis the opportunity — and in their mind the necessity — of an exceptional response. The suspension of the supply line without any commitment to reopening it and the closure of the U.S. air base from which unmanned aerial vehicle operations were carried out (though Pakistani airspace reportedly remains open to operations) was useful to Pakistan. It allowed Islamabad to reposition itself as hostile to the United States because of American actions. It also allowed Islamabad to appear less pro-American, a powerful domestic political issue.
Pakistan has closed supply lines as a punitive measure before. Torkham was closed for 10 straight days in October 2010 in response to a U.S. airstrike that killed several Pakistani soldiers, and trucks at the southern Chaman crossing were “administratively delayed,” according to the Pakistanis. This time, however, Pakistan is signaling that matters are more serious. Uncertainty over these supply lines is what drove the United States to expend considerable political capital to arrange the alternative NDN.
The NDN Alternative and BMD
This alternative depends on Russia. It transits Russian territory and airspace and much of the former Soviet sphere, stretching as far as the Baltic Sea — at great additional expense compared to the Pakistani supply route. This alternative is viable, as it would allow sufficient supplies to flow to support NATO operations. Indeed, over recent months it has become the primary line of supply, and reliance upon it is set to expand. At present, 48 percent of NATO supplies still go through Pakistan; 52 percent of NATO supplies come through NDN (non-lethal); 60 percent of all fuel comes through the NDN; and by the end of the year, the objective is for 75 percent of all non-lethal supplies to transit the NDN.
Separating the United States yields a different breakdown: Only 30 percent of U.S. supplies traverse Pakistan; 30 percent of U.S. supplies come in by air (some of it linked to the Karakoram-Torkham route, probably including the bulk of lethal weapons); and 40 percent of U.S. supplies come in from the NDN land route. [continued after the jump]
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