Washington: The US has dramatically reduced its reliability on Pakistani supply routes to Afghanistan to 35 percent, given the volatile nature of the border areas where a number of NATO suppliers have come under attack.
America`s reliability on Pakistan for supplying goods and arms and ammunition for its troops in Afghanistan has reduced to just 35 percent, a top Pentagon official told US lawmakers.
This is a considerable achievement given that till recently it was more than 70 percent and this was considered to be one of the main bargaining points for Pakistan with the United States.
This figure of 35 percent is expected to come further down in the coming months as the Pentagon is working to increase its supply to Afghanistan through the Northern Distribution network.
"It`s my understanding that approximately 35 percent moves through the ground, and the other is moving through the Northern Distribution Network, coupled with also lift as we bring in supplies by air," General William M Fraser told the Senate Armed Services Committee at his confirmation hearing to be Commander, United States Transportation Command.
The US officials have stated in recent times that they were working on reducing their dependency on the supply routes in Pakistan after a series of attacks on NATO tankers carrying oil and other goods to western forces and Afghanistan. "If you have to, how long would it take you to make up for that 35 percent? Suppose tomorrow Pakistan shut off those supply routes.”
"How long would it take you to adjust to keep the same level of logistics into Afghanistan?," Ranking Republican Senator John McCain, asked.
Gen Fraser said if confirmed he would certainly delve deeply into that.
"I have not learned the details of that specifically," he said.
"I have not delved deeply into the plan. I know ongoing planning is happening. I know there would be a disruption. But if confirmed, I would delve deeply into that plan to ensure that any disruption that we have is minimal, to ensure that we continue to provide that effective yet efficient support to the war fighter," Fraser said.
"We would also have the ability to tap into strat airlift from the United States, too. So it`s not just intra-theatre, but it`s also inter-theatre. Intra-theatre it`s also using ships.”
"So it would be a wholistic look that we would have to address, and I will delve deeply into that," he said.
Earlier, in response to written questions, Fraser said the possible closure of Pakistan lines of communication would not change the requirement of about 300 organic strategic airlift aircraft.
"Improving throughput at existing airports and expanding capacity in our surface networks which supply Afghanistan has again been a centrepiece of our efforts in 2010.”
"The Northern Distribution Network (NDN) remains a priority for USTRANSCOM," he said.
"In 2010, two additional routes were added through the Baltics and Central Asia and continue to improve the processes, facilitating a faster, less costly cargo flow.”
"In addition to the NDN improvements, capacity was added at intermodal Persian Gulf locations," he said.
"Realising that more capacity was needed to support the surge of forces into Afghanistan and the movement of thousands of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles (MRAP), USTRANSCOM worked closely with USCENTCOM and the Department of State to secure access to additional airfields and seaports in the Persian Gulf.”
“Using a concept called multi-modal operations, large volumes of cargo and thousands of vehicles were moved by sea to locations in closer proximity to the USCENTCOM area of operations, by truck from the seaports to the nearby airfields and then by air to Afghanistan," Fraser said.