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NATO's Lifeline to Afghanistan Threatened

12:36 PM, Nov 17, 2008 • By BILL ROGGIO
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Over the weekend, the Pakistani government closed down the vital border crossing to Afghanistan in the Khyber tribal agency. The decision was made after the Taliban hijacked and looted a convoy of vehicles transporting supplies and two Humvees to NATO forces in Afghanistan. The crossing was reopened today after Pakistan said it would provide military escorts for the convoys.

Attacks on NATO convoys have risen dramatically the past month. More than 70 percent of NATO's supplies pass through Khyber, making this route the key supply line for our forces in Afghanistan. With the Taliban insurgency in Pakistan's northwest worsening, NATO's main supply route will increasingly be threatened.

The United States is looking for alternate routes, but these come at a cost: poor infrastructure along the alternate routes in the central Asian countries or China. Plus, the United States would have to rely on Russian or China to keep its troops in Afghanistan supplied. The reliance on these rivals for our lifeline to Afghanistan will come at a cost in other theaters vital to the United States' national security.

There is much talk of a "surge" for Afghanistan to deal with the spiraling violence and the resurgence of the Taliban. Some experts, such as David Kilcullen, say we don't need a surge in forces, but need to rethink how we are using our forces in Afghanistan. No matter what the answer is, until we secure our supply lines through Pakistan, the U.S. and NATO forces currently there are in danger of being choked off. Richard Fernandez sums up this problem well:

The two major issues raised by the situation are 1) the future of Pakistan's ability to keep its territorial integrity and 2) the viability of the lines of communication between Pakistan and Afghanistan. It's no use talking about a Surge in Afghanistan if the supply lines to the sea are largely cut. Pakistan has to be fixed first.