Supply Issues

The US is trying to find new supply routes into Afghanistan because the Taliban and their friends are causing trouble for convoys on both sides of the Khyber Pass:

A week ago, a bold Taliban raid on a NATO supply convoy on the Pakistani side of the pass forced authorities to temporarily close traffic through Torkham [the first Afghan border town]. For days after the attack on the 23-truck convoy, many of the hundreds of truckers who regularly traverse this treacherous route were stranded, forced to watch their profits dwindle. Pakistani authorities reopened the NATO supply route through Torkham on Monday after assigning extra security to the convoys.

But on Tuesday, a day after the reopening, dozens of truck drivers seemed far from certain that their troubles were over. The attack in the Khyber tribal area on the Pakistani side of the border last week was one in a series in recent months that has cost NATO suppliers millions in losses this year. In March, insurgents set fire to 40 to 50 NATO oil tankers near Torkham. A month later, Taliban raiders made off with military helicopter engines valued at about $13 million.

The solution in part lies in running supplies through Russia, which illustrates why getting into a pissing match over Georgia or missile defense is not such a hot idea at the moment.

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Afghan Mission Doubts

The Times of London smells a rat in regard to the timing of the recent convoy battle:

[British commanders] understood that the plan was fraught with political and military problems at the highest levels. The knowledge left many Nato commanders wondering whether the lives of their men were being risked for the sake of little more than American political expediency.

UPDATE: The British defence minister responds:

We cannot afford to wait for complete security to be established before development begins. The need to combine the two is one of the challenges of Afghanistan, which both we and NGOs are grappling with to support the Afghan government.

Treading on the Bear’s Turf

Thomas Barnett isn’t happy about the idea of quickly re-arming Georgia, or of allying the US with it:

This is Russia’s border we’re taking about here. Think carefully about the next steps and the “inviolable” U.S. strategic interests you’re casually picking up, because those can quickly get our people dead.

Rule, Britannia

The Telegraph reports that UK forces won a major battle in Afghanistan to deliver material to a hydro project. Interesting sidelight:

The Chinese-made turbine will be installed as part of a project funded by the American development agency USAID to increase the output of the Kajaki power plant.

Chinese engineers already on the ground will install the equipment, which will boost the capacity of the plant, built in 1975, to three turbines with an output of 51 MegaWatts. Around 1.8 million Afghans are expected to benefit from the project.

Experts Talking Past Each Other

Thomas Barnett turns in a less-than-stellar response to an Edward Luttwak op-ed on the long-term meaning of the Georgia/Russia conflict, reading Luttwak as advocating a rallying behind the former republics regardless of the practicalities. Needless to say, Barnett doesn’t agree:

Go ahead and let Georgia declare war between NATO and Russia. Now, any half-wit small-country leader gets to audition for the role of Archduke Ferdinand.

Pithy, and I daresay it’s a useful caution. Only trouble is that Luttwak was trying to say something more limited, and rather different, than what Barnett thinks he was, namely that NATO remains first and foremost a military alliance:

If Ukraine is allowed to enter Nato, all other members must be ready to send their troops to defend its borders — an outlandish notion for most of them. Yet to refuse Ukraine’s admission now would inevitably hand it over to Russian hegemony.

The decision on whether to confront Russia is an enormously tough one. But that decision will have to be made. It means that Europe’s holiday from serious geopolitics is over.

As an observation, I think that’s pretty much indisputable.