By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
Nov. 14, 2007 - The U.S. military is examining different contingencies for supplying American troops in Afghanistan if supplies can no longer be shipped through Pakistan, Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said today. Morrell hastened to add that the unrest in Pakistan following President Pervez Musharraf instituting a state of emergency has not impinged on U.S. supply lines through or over Pakistan.
Morrell said at a Pentagon news conference that the supply line issue "is a very real area of concern for our commanders in Afghanistan, because 75 percent of all of our supplies for our troops in Afghanistan flow either through or over Pakistan." This includes about 40 percent of the fuel shipped to U.S. forces, which comes directly from Pakistani refineries. No ammunition goes through Pakistan, the press secretary said.
"Supplies to our troops in Afghanistan continue to flow freely through Pakistan, and for that we are grateful," he said. "But the U.S. is not taking the passage for granted. Planners are working on contingency supply lines to our troops if it becomes necessary to alter the way we now support our troops."
Morrell could not say what the contingency plans are, but was confident troops would be supplied if a "Plan B" were needed. "We are a can-do operation," he said. "They'll figure out a way to get it done if it needs to get done."
Government officials continue the review of the $9.6 billion in aid to Pakistan since 2001, Morrell said. It is an on-going process, and there is no timeline for completion, he said. "The focus of this department is not on punishing Pakistan, but on trying to help them to get back to law-based, democratic constitutional rule as quickly as possible," Morrell said.
U.S. money going to counter terrorism operations will not be affected by the review, he said. "In going about whatever we do, we are not going make our citizens any less safe," he said. "President Musharraf has been a steadfast ally in the war on terror since 9/11, and we are not stemming the flow of any of our military aid to Pakistan that goes to war on terror operations.
"That's not to say that it is not under review, but the flow of that aid has not stopped, due to the fact that we do not want to do anything to imperil our own citizens or the citizens of Pakistan, for that matter."
The United States wants Musharraf to resign as Pakistani army chief and to institute free, fair elections as soon as possible. The more time Pakistani security forces take in enforcing emergency measures, the less time they can devote to counter terrorism, Morrell said. "Clearly, we do not like the situation we find ourselves in now," he said. "We wish elections were happening today."
Morrell said Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates visited Capitol Hill today in part to urge lawmakers to quickly pass the supplemental war spending bill.
"As of yesterday ... the Department of Defense has had to move money from base budget accounts so that we can continue to support essential operations such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan," he said. "The Army is in a particularly precarious situation. Absent extraordinary measures, it would run out of money by mid-February, so quick congressional action is needed."