October 06, 2010

Militants Increase Attacks Against NATO Fuel Convoys in Pakistan

Our daily news round up over the past week may seem a bit repetitive.  Again this morning, The Washington Post reported an attack on another NATO supply convoy carrying fuel from southern Pakistan to Afghanistan via the Chanam crossing. This route is currently the only one available from southern Pakistan to Afghanistan since Pakistani authorities closed the Torkham crossing following a NATO helicopter attack last Thursday that left several Pakistani soldiers dead.

The series of attacks against NATO fuel convoys is a constant reminder of how costly the military’s reliance on fossil fuels is,  in terms of dollars lost, mission effectiveness and military and civilian causalities. Yesterday’s New York Times article “U.S. Military Orders Less Dependence on Fossil Fuels” quantified those costs:

In Iraq and Afghanistan, one Army study found, for every 24 fuel convoys that set out, one soldier or civilian engaged in fuel transport was killed…While the military buys gas for just over $1 a gallon, getting that gallon to some forward operating bases costs $400.

Of course, this is an issue that has been on the military’s radar at least as far back as 2006, according to the Times. The Department of Defense is acutely aware of how important it is to address this vulnerability and individual branches of the military are setting ambitious goals to move to new energy sources. As the Times reported:

“There are a lot of profound reasons for doing this, but for us at the core it’s practical,” said Ray Mabus, the Navy secretary and a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, who has said he wants 50 percent of the power for the Navy and Marines to come from renewable energy sources by 2020. That figure includes energy for bases as well as fuel for cars and ships.

“Fossil fuel is the No. 1 thing we import to Afghanistan,” Mr. Mabus said, “and guarding that fuel is keeping the troops from doing what they were sent there to do, to fight or engage local people.”

We here at CNAS are also thinking hard about military dependence on fossil fuels.  If you haven’t already, check out our timely report released just last week, Fueling the Future Force: Preparing the Department of Defense for a Post-Petroleum Era, and look for more to come.