Posted tagged ‘Embassy’

Northern Distribution Network

April 14, 2010

In the Spring of 2008, Taliban insurgents in Pakistan were attempting to 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. That proved to be a very tenuous ground line of communication with all of the eggs in one basket.

The Bush administration was considering doubling the effort in Afghanistan to counter the resurgence in violence. Bush’s policy and strategy review was eventually handed off to the Obama administration with the underpinnings of a comprehensive logistical plan that afforded the Obama administration a new start with Russia and the Central Asia states. This Northern Distribution Network diversified the resupply efforts into Afghanistan, increased European, Russian and Central Asian participation in the support for the effort and secured improved relations throughout that region.

At that time, US relations with Russia were icy and Kyrgyzstan was making noises about access to Manas Air Base. Alternative supply route solutions were a must. Discussions about troop increases in Afghanistan led to the conclusion that the supply routes in Pakistan would be insufficient if the number of forces doubled.

An opportunity to work with South Korean Airlines unfolded that made a lot of sense for the distribution network. The opportunity hinged upon Uzbekistan allowing South Korean Airlines to operate out of Navoi airfield near Taskent. The concept included the South Koreans flying 4 transport aircraft per week into Navoi, transloading the supplies to truck and delivering the supplies overland to Allied forces in Afghanistan. The South Koreans needed cargo to carry and the Allies needed a Northern Distribution Network.

With adroit diplomatic moves and hard work on the part of OSD’s Central Asia team, Transportation Command, CENTCOM, and the State Department, the military was able to open up a northern supply route that uses ports, rails, land and overflight for delivery of supplies into Afghanistan.

The initial meeting with USTRANSCOM and South Korean Airlines President led to access in Uzbekistan and enhancement of the initial concept. Following many months of effort and with a lot of diplomatic work, the Uzbek Embassy presented the South Korean Airlines a contract and the State Department a diplomatic note granting access.

Following the initial series of discussions, other countries became interested in the operation. The Latvian Ambassador approached OSD and proposed using Latvian ports and rail to assist with access. Latvian relations with Russia and Uzbekistan ensured the success of this initiative.

In parallel, work continued with EUCOM and State Department to engage the Russians to allow rail access through Russia. That route flows across Europe, then down through Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and into Afghanistan. Agreements for access were concluded with Kazakstan and eventually Russia once the Manas issue was resolved. Additional agreements with the Caucus states added an additional supply route increasing access even further.

Currently, 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 troops, are flown into Afghanistan. Non-lethal equipment and supplies are moved through the Northern Distribution Network.

This very successful effort accommodated the stretch goals for the 100% increase in operations tempo in Afghanistan. It increased supply capability from one to four alternate routes of supply…limiting vulnerabilities and pilfering. The new routes accommodated a doubling of the 735,000 short tons of essential non-lethal equipment and supplies. The early diplomatic initiatives in 2008 enabled the Northern Distribution Network and ensured delivery of critical supplies before reinforcements arrived…and all before the August 31, 2010 deadline.