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- Tuesday, May 15, 2012 - From Print Edition


LAHORE: As the suspension of Nato supplies by Islamabad, in retaliation to the killing of its 24 soldiers in the November 26, 2011 cross border fire by the United States/Nato troops enters into 170th day Tuesday (today), the use of alternative Northern Distribution Network and the surge in fuel prices mainly due to the continued closure of the Pakistani border has already cost an additional $1.5 billion to the world super power till date.


US Senator Claire McCaskill, at a very recent Congressional hearing on current readiness of American troops, had revealed that the use of Northern Distribution Network was costing the United States an additional $38 million per month, which roughly comes to $215 million if one calculates the total loss for 170 days or for a time period that is just 10 days shy of six months now.


Senator Claire McCaskill was further quoted by the American media as saying: "We have learned the Department of Defence will face at least a $1.3 billion bill as a result of the rise in fuel prices. This price increase has been exacerbated by the continued closure of the Pakistan border, forcing supply convoys for our force in Afghanistan to use the Northern Distribution Network at an increased expense of about $38 million per month."


Senator McCaskill had admitted during the afore-cited Congressional hearing that the $1.3 billion oil bill, as a result of the rise in fuel prices, was not incorporated in his country's original plan.


Therefore, the total cost that the United States has to bear due to suspension of the Nato supplies by Pakistan comes to more than $1.5 billion ($1.3 billion+ $215 million).Earlier in 2010, Pakistan had suspended the Nato supplies to Afghanistan for one week when a Nato helicopter had killed two Pakistani soldiers within Pakistan's borders.


According to a FOX News report of January 3, 2012, Pakistan had shut the Northern routes, which the Nato had been using to ship about 40 per cent of the supplies for its forces in landlocked Afghanistan till the November 2011 attack on the Salala check-post.


This Northern route was established in 2009 in response to the increased risk of sending supplies through Pakistan.


The initial permission for the US military to move troop supplies through this route was given on January 20, 2009, after a visit to the region by the incumbent CIA Director, General David Petraeus, who was then the Commander of the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) and Commander of the US Forces in Afghanistan.


The first shipment along the Northern route had left on February 20, 2009 and by 2011, this alternate passage had handled about 40 per cent of Afghanistan-bound traffic, compared to 30 per cent through Pakistan.


By February 2012, around 85 per cent of the coalition fuel supplies were being shipped through the Northern route, along with 30 per cent of the supplies that had routinely come through Pakistan.


According to the February 25, 2010 report of the Washington DC-based European Institute, the Northern route starts in the Latvian port of Riga, the largest all-weather harbour on the Baltic Sea, where container ships offload their cargo onto Russian trains.


The above-mentioned European Institute report further states that the shipments then roll through Russia for 3,212 miles (5,169 km) by train southwards around the Caspian Sea through Kazakhstan and finally enter Uzbekistan, before they finally cross the frontier into North Afghanistan.


The report said: "The Russian train-lines were built to supply Russia's own war in Afghanistan in the 1980's, and today Moscow's cooperation is making them available for use by the US and Nato in their own Afghan campaign."


According to a report prepared by the legally independent German political foundation, the Heinrich Boll-Stiftung Foundation, the Pakistan routes (until their closure) had provided most of the fuel for the Nato forces in Afghanistan. In 2007, the military was burning 575,000 gallons of fuel per day, and 80 per cent of this fuel came from Pakistani refineries.


The Berlin-based Heinrich Boll-Stiftung Foundation report maintains: "The fuel storage capacity for forces at Bagram and Kabul air bases was less than three million gallons, making the Nato efforts highly dependent on the Pakistani supply lines. The Nato began working to reduce this dependency, building an additional three million gallons of storage space at Bagram Air Base in fall 2007. In 2010, as a result of deterioration in American-Pakistani relations, the American military intensified these efforts, stockpiling supplies and increasing storage capacity."


It is imperative to recall that the White House had refused to tender an apology for the November 26, 2011 to Pakistan, after Taliban attacks in Kabul and other cities in Afghanistan on April 15, 2012.These Kabul attacks of April 2012, according to US military and intelligence officials, were orchestrated by the North Waziristan-based Haqqani network.