The Army’s chief logistician said, “In talking Afghanistan we are talking a country about the size of Texas, but more important is you can see that there is no seaport and to get to Afghanistan through a seaport of any size we go through the port or Karachi” in Pakistan.
Speaking Feb. 18 at the Association of the United States Army Institute of Land Warfare breakfast in suburban Washington, Lt. Gen. Mitchell Stevenson, G-4, said that is only part of the challenge. “The country of Pakistan does not want any uniformed Americans running around the country,” so local contractors have to be hired to move goods overland.
Adding, “It is also a challenge because of the terrain” with essentially only two routes available from the south that lead through extremely high mountain passes. The routes “are very easily interdicted.”
At the same time, the United States is working with countries to the north of Afghanistan to move more equipment by rail to its borders. Stevenson said as matters stand now no lethal equipment, including the all-terrain version of the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, can be shipped over this route.
Until recently, there were very few Army trucks in Afghanistan, so again local contractors were used.
Stevenson said there were cases of pilferage and theft and the Army has stepped up its security screening procedures. As the buildup continues, “we have to get a lot more [Army] truck companies” into Afghanistan to meet the increased demand for supplies.
There are also few places where fixed wing aircraft such as C-17s and C-130s can land.
Stevenson said the Army will meet its requirements to equip the first arriving 7,000 to 8,000 additional soldiers arriving in Afghanistan in late March. “Their equipment is almost all there now,” with the rest arriving by the middle of March. “We don’t want soldiers sitting around waiting for their equipment.”
Adding, “We’re trying to stay a step ahead.”
The plan is for soldiers to leave their equipment behind for follow-on units to use.
The logistician faces an environment in Afghanistan “that is much more challenging than Iraq.”
At the same time there are 19 outposts in Afghanistan that can only be resupplied with food, water, ammunition, weapons and parts for weapons by air.
“Air drop has become big business for us. Stevenson said that a few years ago, the Army dropped 600 short tons of supply by air. It rose to 15,000 short tons last year and will climb higher as the increased number of American and NATO forces flow into Afghanistan.
The supplies are being delivered in a number of ways from the air – ranging from joint precision guided parachutes from high altitudes to the still being tested free drop packaging of supplies from 50 feet.
Turning to Iraq, Stevenson said, “The hardest part of the drawdown project is the base closure.” The goal is to drawdown American forces to 50,000 by Aug. 31 from about 100,000 now and then to be completely gone by Dec. 31, 2011. “We are on target to hit this date. Right now we are focused on getting through the [Iraqi parliamentary] elections” in the spring.
Two-thirds of the equipment in Iraq belongs to the Army and will be leaving with units as they re-deploy. The other third is theater-provided equipment and contractor-acquired equipment.
Almost all the military equipment from these categories will be shipped back to the United States. Some will be left for the Iraqis.
The non-standard equipment raises other issues, he said. “Some of this has turned out to be very, very useful. Some, not so useful. Some have little shelf life.”
Stevenson said the pace of moving equipment will be stepped up starting in May.
“There are less than 100 tanks in Iraq, less than 150 Bradleys,” he added.
Stevenson said the Army has selected its Red River Depot to do the reset work on the 16,000 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles it had in Iraq and will do a pilot reset program at Letterkenny next year.
“We expect two to three years [to be needed for reset work] once we get out of the conflict.”
Stevenson said rescue and recovery work in Haiti shows “we got a little rusty at ‘go-today’ operations” and not drop all other missions. Of the 10,000 service members in Haiti, about half are soldiers and many are involved in logistics over the shore landing craft operations as the port is being rebuilt following the earthquake.
The breakfast was sponsored by L3, an AUSA sustaining member.