Tab for alternate Afghan supply route hits $2.1 billion
By Marcus Weisgerber, Military Times
Pakistan's refusal to let NATO access its ports and roads into Afghanistan has cost the Pentagon more than $2.1 billion in extra transportation costs to move supplies and equipment in and out of the country.
The revelation of the huge cost comes as the Pentagon continues to negotiate with Islamabad to regain access to the supply routes.
"The good news is that there continue to be those discussions," Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Friday during a briefing at the Pentagon. "There still are some tough issues to try to resolve, but, you know, I think the important thing right now is that both sides in good faith keep working to see if we can resolve this."
Pakistan closed the ground route to NATO supplies after a U.S. airstrike mistakenly killed 24 of its soldiers last November. The only other access to land-locked Afghanistan is through the Northern Distribution Network, a series of roads through Russia and Central Asia.
Panetta told the Senate Appropriations Committee in mid-June that the closure of the Pakistani routes was costing the U.S. military about an extra $100 million per month. These new costs were disclosed in a Pentagon budget document — called the omnibus reprogramming request — sent to Congress on Friday. In the document, which is traditionally sent to lawmakers at the end of each June, the Pentagon asks for permission to shift already appropriated money within its own accounts.
The Army asked Congress to shift $1.7 billion due to "shortfalls that resulted from increased fuel costs and continued closure of the Pakistan Ground Lines of Communication," the document states.
The other, most expensive, transport option is to airlift supplies and equipment into Afghanistan.
The Air Force has requested the transfer of $369.2 million of airlift, "partially due to the closure of the Pakistan Ground Lines of Communication ," the document states
Contributing: Kate Brannen, Zachary Fryer-Biggs, Christopher P. Cavas and Paul McLeary
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