Washington, May 11 (PTI)
An alternate supply route being used by the US to transport goods to its troops in Afghanistan following Pakistan's closure of ground lines of communication is costing the Pentagon an additional $38 million per month, a top Senator has said.
"We have learnt 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 Claire McCaskill said.
The Northern Distribution Network is a series of commercially-based logistical arrangements connecting Baltic and Caspian ports with Afghanistan via Russia, Central Asia, and the Caucasus.
McCaskill's comments on the issue at a Congressional hearing on current readiness of US troops yesterday came in the wake of Pakistan shutting down the NATO supply routes following a cross-border air raid that killed 24 of its soldiers in November last year.
Responding to the concerns of US lawmakers, Gen Philip Breedlove, Vice Chief of the Air Force, cautioned about the additional financial burden the US forces might have to face if Pakistan does not reopen the ground lines of communication (GLOCs).
"If we do not get movement in the Pak GLOCs -- as you know, much of the job of bringing home all of the equipment that the Marines and the Army need will fall to the backs of the Air Force to haul out. And so there'll be a considerable amount of time as we effect this retrograde...," he said.
"So our start time could be significantly different than what you heard from my compatriots, and it will take us some period of time, between a year and a year-and-a-half after that, to get through the training cycles and things we need," he said.
McCaskill said: "It is relevant, obviously, to the drawdown as we pull equipment and men and women out of Afghanistan. It's obviously very important in terms of fuel costs. It is a huge bill that we -- I think people forget that nobody buys more fuel in the world than we do...."
"I know that we have to pay almost three times the normal rate to go through the Northern Distribution Network that we would have to typically expend going through Pakistan. What effect is this closure going to have on getting equipment out, getting everything out we need to get out, and more importantly, on getting the fuel we need to continue to support the mission that we have ongoing in Afghanistan?" he asked.
Breedlove said the price on fuel is going to cost the US air force approximately $1.3 billion that was not in their original plan.