As Washington’s relations with Islamabad hit an all-time low, the US may be considering not using Pakistan as a route to send supplies to Afghanistan, a US State Department official hinted on January 10.
He was answering a specific question about what the US will do if an angry Pakistan cuts off access to the routes through which military and other supplies get to Afghanistan.
“Is the US talking with the Central Asian countries or Russia about trying to expand resupply – like northern resupply – routes to have alternatives if Pakistan cuts that off,” was the question asked of the State Department official Steven Goldstein.
He replied in the affirmative.
“We always look at that,” said Goldstein, emphasising though that the recent suspension of as much as $2 billion in funds to Pakistan was just that – a suspension – not an end.
“…this is a suspension and not a cut-off. No funds have been reprogrammed, and we’re hopeful for future cooperation from Pakistan,” said Goldsmith, referring to help from that country to rein in the Taliban and the Haqqani Network of terrorists.
Following a blistering anti-Pakistan tweet from US President Donald Trump on January 1, the US last week suspended all security assistance to Pakistan for failing to clamp down on these terror groups and for, in fact, providing them safe haven.
The Pakistanis were, of course, mighty miffed at these developments and made noises about cutting off US access to routes that go through its country to Afghanistan.
If Pakistan does that, the US will be in trouble. That’s because the port in Karachi is where food, military equipment and other essential items are unloaded to send to Afghanistan for US troops and for civilians there.
The US faced a very such situation in in 2011, when Pakistan closed its border to Nato supplies when its relations with the US hit a low similar to the one now.
At the time, the US-led forces in Afghanistan dealt with the closure by relying on cargo flights and a more costly northern route through Russia, Central Asia and the Caucasus, said AFP news agency.
For now, the US seems confident it will be able to deal with the situation if Pakistan blocks supply routes. It has built “flexibility and redundancy” into its supply chains, the US said.
“As military planners, we develop multiple supply chain contingencies to sustain theatre requirements to maintain the train, advise and assist mission to the Afghan National Defense Security Forces,” Lieutenant Colonel Kone Faulkner told AFP earlier this week.