US paying high price for Pakistan route cut-off: admiral
28 June, 2012
WASHINGTON: Moving supplies to NATO troops in Afghanistan via Central Asia costs three times as much as routes through Pakistan, which Islamabad shut seven months ago in anger, a senior US officer said on Wednesday.
"On the ground, it's almost three times more expensive to come from the north as it does from Pakistan. More expensive and slower," said Vice Admiral Mark Harnitchek, director of the Defence Logistics Agency.
NATO now uses an alternative network of northern routes that pass through Russia, Central Asia and the Caucasus.
Transporting a container from the United States to Afghanistan costs about $20,000, he told a group of defence reporters.
But the cost of ferrying cargo to Karachi and then over roads to the Afghan border amounts to only a third of that price, he said.
Pakistan imposed a blockade on NATO supply convoys after 24 of its soldiers were killed by mistake in a US air strike in November along the Afghan border.
US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said earlier this month that the Pakistan border closure costs the United States an additional $100 million a month.
Before the route cut-off, about 30-40 percent of the fuel used by coalition forces came through Pakistan.
Fuel is now transported over land via the northern routes, while food is flown in on cargo aircraft, he said.
"It was challenging initially and we took a bit of a dip there in terms of days of supply. But now our stocks of food and fuel have never been higher," Harnitchek said.
The supply routes were on the agenda when the commander of NATO-led forces in Afghanistan, General John Allen, met his counterparts in Pakistan on Wednesday, officials said.