Supply Chain Disruptions Escalate Challenges for U.S. Military in Afghanistan

Supply chain disruption has been a major strategic and tactical component of warfare throughout history. From blockading harbors with significant naval presence, bombing railroads and freezing a country's foreign placed assets to inhibit purchasing power, slowing or preventing the delivery of weapons, munitions, medical supplies, food and shelter remains a very effective offensive strategy today. And even more so in theaters where the terrain is most circuitous and inhospitable.

There is perhaps no harsher an environment in which to conduct military operations and delivery of materiel than into landlocked Afghanistan. CBS News reported last week that "Taliban-linked Islamic militants from Pakistan's populous Punjab province are at the center of investigations into an unprecedented midnight attack ... very near the country's capital [Islamabad] ... on a convoy of more than 50 trucks carrying supplies for Western troops in Afghanistan ... But unlike previous attacks in Pakistan, which have taken place mostly in the remote area near the Afghan border, the militants stunned Western officials with their latest attack at a supposedly well-protected truck depot near the capital city..."

CBS claims that "as much as half the fuel supplies and more than 60 percent of other supplies used by U.S. and other Western forces in Afghanistan have passed through Pakistan ... since 2002." Routes in, out and around Afghanistan are so incredibly serpentine and perilous that forcing "the U.S. and other NATO countries to pursue alternate routes through the former Soviet republics of central Asia, routes which are much longer than the direct drive through Pakistan," should probably not come as a surprise. But what appears to have recently changed the tactical landscape is that "The threat previously came from areas close to the Afghan border but now seems to be growing in Pakistan's heartland."

While the Taliban, their cohorts and sympathizers may appear to be very conventional in their adherence to old customs and traditions, it would be a huge folly to ignore their ability to implement similarly ancient strategies of creative warfare like supply chain disruption -- wherever an opportunity can be found.

William Busch

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